Failed candidate Friedrich Merz calls for decision in battle over Merkel’s successor

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Berlin (dpa) – Friedrich Merz, who failed to secure the candidacy for the German chancellery, on Saturday called for a quick decision on who is to lead the conservative bloc into elections to succeed Angela Merkel.

A battle has been raging among the conservatives – Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian allies Christian Social Union (CSU) – over who is to be their joint candidate for September’s parliamentary election.

The two main contenders – Bavarian premier and CSU leader Markus Soeder and CDU party president Armin Laschet – have been holding talks in a bid to break the deadlock.

Merz, who failed to become party leader and is now standing for election as a lawmaker, urged a rapid decision.

“Come to an agreement, Markus Soeder and Armin Laschet. This country needs leadership. And the CDU and CSU are needed as the politically leading force of this country,” Merz said at a campaign event.

Opinion polls released on Friday by German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF showed Soeder well ahead of Laschet as the preferred candidate among both CDU/CSU party members and the wider electorate.

But on Monday morning, CDU leaders moved to outmanoeuvre Soeder’s push to become Germany’s first CSU chancellor, when the CDU party leadership backed Laschet.

Only a few hours later, CSU leaders announced they had thrown their weight behind Soeder, prompting a potentially damaging showdown between the two political allies. Soeder also received strong support from CDU/CSU lawmakers and some CDU state premiers.

As the biggest party in the conservative bloc, the CDU traditionally nominates the candidate to spearhead the election campaign.

But Soeder has seized on his high poll ratings following his tough handling of the coronavirus pandemic in his home state to insist that he represents the best chance to take the CDU/CSU to election victory in September for a fifth consecutive time.

Merkel has ruled out standing again for election after 16 years in power.

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