BERLIN — Armin Laschet, leader of Germany’s Christian Democrats (CDU), will be the conservative candidate for chancellor in September’s general election after his rival Markus Söder conceded defeat.
Laschet effectively clinched the nomination after securing majority backing from senior party officials in a marathon meeting that ended early Tuesday morning.
“The die is cast. Armin Laschet will be the chancellor candidate,” Söder, the premier of Bavaria, told a news conference.
Laschet, the premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, is now in pole position to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor. Merkel, a fellow Christian Democrat, plans to stand down after 16 years in power following the September 26 parliamentary election.
The conservative bloc lies in first place in opinion polls, with a vote share of around 28 percent, even though it has faced heavy criticism over its handling of the pandemic and a series of corruption scandals.
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The alliance between the CDU and its smaller Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), led by Söder, has also been badly damaged by the bitter public battle to be its candidate for chancellor.
The feud exposed deep divisions between the conservative alliance’s northern establishment, which stood behind Laschet, and rank-and-file MPs and conservative voters, who overwhelmingly backed Söder.
Laschet’s immediate challenge will be to repair those rifts. He also faces a struggle to improve his poor personal approval ratings, which have been considerably lower than Söder’s.