Armin Laschet announced Tuesday (February 25th) that he is running for the chairmanship of the CDU in Germany. An extraordinary party conference has been convened for the election, on April 25th in Berlin. His opposing candidates are Friedrich Merz, as well as Norbert Röttgen, who is currently the foreign policy spokesman for the CDU faction.
Of these three candidates, Armin Laschet is the one with the best prospects. He has vast political experience in different positions (European Parliament, German Bundestag, cabinet minister in Northrine-Westfalia) and is now very successful as Prime Minister of Northrine-Westfalia, Germanys biggest Bundesland. He has now formed a team with Jens Spahn, the youngest and most successful minister in Ms Merkel’s current cabinet. While Laschet covers the left-liberal/green part of the CDU, Spahn tends to be more conservative and has often come out as a conservative critic of Angela Merkel’s policies, especially on the issue of refugees. Thus, not only do the both together cover the entire spectrum of the CDU in terms of political programs, but also the age strata of society are reflected: Spahn for the young, Laschet for the middle and older voters.
Both have clearly distributed the positions. Laschet as CDU leader and CDU candidate for the chancellorship, Spahn as his vice-chairman and prospective successor, who has a great future ahead of him also because he puts personal ambition aside at the right moment in the interest of the party as a whole.
Friedrich Merz emphasizes that this fight of the candidates is now about a „decision of direction“ for the CDU, which has driven many voters to the AfD on the right side. Laschet would stand for the continuation of Merkel’s course of the CDU’s left drift. Laschet and Spahn, on the other hand, refer to the poor election results of the CDU in Hamburg last Sunday, in which the CDU lost many voters to the left (to SPD or the Greens). Therefore one could not see this one-sidedly, but had to have a good offer to the right and to the left – namely Spahn on the one hand and Laschet on the other.
In this line-up Laschet, arm in arm with Jens Spahn, now has the best chances to become the new chairman of the CDU. However, the nomination of the joint candidate for chancellor of the CDU and the Bavarian CSU will not be made before autumn, probably in the Forst months of the next year. Laschet, however, says that (in case he is elected chairman) he himself will be the CDU’s proposal. Behind the scenes it can be heard that CSU leader Söder will support Laschet’s candidacy for chancellor.
While Friedrich Merz and also Norbert Röttgen see their candidacies also as a declaration of war against Angela Merkel (she has driven both of them out of important offices), in the case of Armin Laschet’s election inner-party peace will be preserved. He has a relaxed relationship with Mrs. Merkel – although he occasionally criticizes her policies (most recently her powerless European policy). The delegates at the party conference will appreciate this peace, as Mrs. Merkel will hold the EU presidency in the second half of the year and she therefore does not need a dispute within the CDU. They also do not want to see Ms Merkel damaged in the last year of her chancellorship, because this would also damage the CDU as a whole.