Three men will compete to succeed German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the presidency of the Christian Democratic Union in a joint vote next Saturday, 9 months before the end of the German chancellor’s term.
These elections – which have been postponed several times due to the Corona epidemic – take place after the resignation of Angret Kramp Karenbauer, who had long been considered the favorite successor to Merkel, from the leadership of the party due to her inability to impose herself.
The 1,001 delegates in the ruling party for 15 years must choose between moderate Armin Laschet, Friedrich Meretz, a supporter of the post-center-right transition under Merkel, and Norbert Rutgen, whose candidacy was not expected.
The three candidates’ paths differ, although they are from the North Rhine-Westphalia region in western Germany. The following is a brief overview of each of them:
Armin Laschet … in the footsteps of Merkel
A former journalist will turn 60 on February 18, and embody a continuation of the Merkel era. He is moderate conservative, loyal to the chancellor and has a relationship of trust with her. Laschet, “with two laughing eyes behind his soft glasses”, particularly supported the refugee reception policy in 2015.
But his proximity to Merkel may represent an obstacle to him, because this pious Catholic who supports European construction seeks to distinguish himself from the chancellor who has held power for more than 15 years, and to present a different program.
Laschet was elected a member of the Bundestag in 1994, and a European representative five years later. Since 2017 he has headed the most populous region of North Rhine-Westphalia in western Germany.
Lachit responded to the Corona epidemic and achieved mixed success, as one of the first infection centers appeared in his region after a carnival in Heinsburg. It also lost its popularity after demanding before the summer, and too early in the eyes of medical experts, to loosen containment restrictions to save the economy.
However, Chet, whose son is an influential figure, can benefit from the bilateral alliance with Health Minister Jens Young, who was popular during the epidemic crisis despite criticism of his vaccination strategy.
Friedrich Meretz, the Avenger
Friedrich Meretz, 65, wants revenge on Merkel at any cost, as this liberal was a candidate for the presidency of the Christian Democratic Union at the end of 2018, but was narrowly defeated by Angrett Kramp Karenbauer, who at one point was considered a potential successor to Merkel, before she resigned from the presidency of the union. Christian Democrats in early 2020.
This lawyer with harsh features, who traces his origin to North Rhine-Westphalia, has a long political career to his credit, as he is a member of the European Parliament (1989-1994), then the Bundestag (1994-2009), and head of the Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union between 2000 And in 2002, before Merkel removed him from the post, which he did not forgive her.
Meretz adopts liberal positions on economic and social issues, and is good at giving strong speeches on security and immigration. These are positions that are supposed to allow his party to win back the voters who were won over by the extreme right.
Although this amateur pilot – who was infected with Corona in the spring – has the support of the party base, especially the youth of the Christian Democratic Union, in recent months he has struggled with not assuming any local official position.
And so it was blocked by district officials who managed to manage the epidemic response with Merkel. His time working for the US asset management firm BlackRock for a lavish pay, and recent statements in which he compared homosexuality and pedophilia, may lead to a reluctance of moderate and environmental voters to endorse him.
Norbert Rutgen .. coming from outside the party leadership
Norbert Röttgen, 55, is a foreign policy expert who has studied law, and appears on par with Meretz, far ahead of Laschet in national opinion polls.
Rutgen was elected to the Bundestag in 1994, and is the father of three, who also has an account he wants to liquidate with Merkel. The chancellor halted his political ascendancy in 2012 by dismissing him from his position as environment minister after an electoral defeat in his region of North Rhine-Westphalia.
He later became Chairman of the Bundestag’s Foreign Affairs Committee, a supporter of the hard line towards Russia, and promised to give a stronger role for youth and women within the conservative German party, which, in his opinion, needs to be renewed.
Regardless of the winner in these internal elections, the question of running for the chancellery in the legislative elections scheduled for September 26 will not be resolved before the spring, so Marcus Söder, the leader of the Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union – who became one of the favorite figures among the Germans thanks to His cautious approach to the pandemic – already haunting the conservative camp.
Despite his denials, Söder dreams that he will receive an invitation from the Christian Democratic Union to take the initiative to do so after a series of local elections in mid-March, to become perhaps the first chancellor from the Christian Social Union.
But professor of political science at the Free University of Berlin, Thorsten Fass, says that the incoming president of the Christian Democratic Union “definitely has very good chances to run for the chancellery” and he does not see “how the winner can say: Marcus Söder, please submit your candidacy.”