Berlin (dpa) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel entered the electoral fray on behalf of her conservative alliance on Saturday with wholehearted support for her potential successor from the Christian Democrats (CDU), Armin Laschet.
Laschet has seen his poll numbers slide in recent days, and the centre-right bloc – comprised of the CDU and the Christian Social Union (CSU) – is now hovering only a few percentage points above its rivals according to several recent voter surveys.
Describing Laschet as the “future chancellor of Germany” at a showcase event at Berlin’s Tempodrom concert venue, Merkel praised him as a politician driven by Christian values and dedicated to “building bridges” between people.
He would be led by these same values as chancellor, Merkel said to applause from supporters.
The man who had been Laschet’s main rival for the post of chancellor candidate for the CDU/CSU, Markus Soeder, issued a call for unity.
It was time finally for a “serious campaign,” he said. “Nothing has been lost so far. This is no time for whining,” he said, in an apparent reference to the centre-right bloc’s lacklustre polls.
The general secretaries of the CDU and CSU, Paul Ziemiak and Markus Blume respectively, likewise called for unity. Ziemiak stressed that the so-called Union was a “guarantee for a politics of the centre, for stability.”
The disappointing poll numbers, compared to the resurgence of the centre-left Social Democrats, has unleashed an internal and public debate over the CDU/CSU campaign.
Laschet has made several missteps during the campaign, including failing to convince the electorate of his credentials as a crisis manager following the floods in western Germany in mid-July.
Observers continue to speculate about whether Soeder would have led the CDU/CSU to a better showing, had he won the contest to be the bloc’s candidate for chancellor.
The Social Democrats and the Greens are both hovering around 20-per-cent support with just over 5 weeks to go before the elections.
If accurate, the polls point to a three-way coalition after the September 26 election.
The elections will see Merkel leave the political stage after nearly 16 years in power.
Photo – German Chancellor Angela Merkel gestures through a gap in a curtain prior to the beginning of an election rally of Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU) at the Tempodrom in Berlin, Germany, 21 August 2021. Germany elects a new parliament on 26 September 2021. EPA-EFE/CLEMENS BILAN / POOL