Armin Laschet, leader of Germany’s Christian Democrats (CDU), won the backing of senior party members at an internal meeting to run as the conservative candidate to succeed Angela Merkel at a September federal election, party sources said on Tuesday.
That brings him a step closer to being named candidate for the conservative bloc, a role for which he has been vying with Markus Soeder, leader of the CDU’s smaller Bavarian sister party CSU.
With Merkel stepping down after the election, pressure has been mounting on the bloc, dubbed ‘The Union’, to agree on a candidate as its ratings wallow near a one-year low, hurt by the chaotic handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
By backing Laschet, 60, the less popular of the two men, the CDU elite has prioritised its ascendancy in the conservative bloc over the prospect of being led to victory by Soeder, 54, who would then hold sway over the alliance and could potentially dominate it for years.
After more than six hours of debate going into the night, Laschet garnered the votes of 31 out of 46 members of the CDU’s federal executive committee, representing a majority of 77.5%, party sources said.