German Chancellor Angela Merkel made the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) an election-winning team in her years at the helm of the party, moving it away from traditional values and closer to the center.
The CDU has headed the federal government under Merkel since 2005.
And after polls showed a dip in popularity before the pandemic, with the CDU suffering some regional losses, its steadfast authority during the crisis has meant impressive approval ratings of more than 70%.
Now, after Merkel resigned in 2018 and her chosen successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (AKK), resigned, three hopefuls are vying to be elected as the new leader of the CDU and ushering the party into a new era.
Whoever wins could also succeed Merkel as chancellor and de facto leader of Europe. The 66-year-old says she will resign before federal elections scheduled for September. Pollsters have put the CDU and the CSU, which only operates in Bavaria, ahead of their rivals.
The new CDU president will be elected at the party’s first fully digital congress, which ends on Saturday.
All three candidates are men, in their 50s or 60s and hail from the West German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, but while they are similar in figure, their resumes and political perspectives also show marked differences.
Moderate Armin Laschet, Norbert Röttgen, a leading expert on the party’s foreign policy, and Friedrich Merz, a conservative, are the men vying to be the next CDU president – here’s what you need to know about them.
Armin Laschet, Minister-President of North Rhine-Westphalia
Armin Laschet is seen as one of the candidates most likely to keep the party on the same line as Merkel: a liberal social approach combined with fiscal virtue.
In 2017, he defeated the Social Democrats in his former stronghold of North Rhine-Westphalia, in western Germany and one of the largest regions in the country. He became prime minister and has ruled as part of a coalition with the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP).
Laschet has used this government experience in Germany’s most populous state to campaign for the top CDU post.
“It is good to have party leaders who also have government responsibilities. That has been proven,” he told Der Spiegel.
The 59-year-old says he wants to bring Germany up to speed by the 2020s and remedy “the shortcomings” that the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed.
Foreign policy expert Norbert Röttgen
After not being elected Minister-President of North Rhine-Westphalia in 2012 and being removed from office as Federal Minister for the Environment, Norbert Röttgen was recently appointed Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the German Parliament, the Bundestag.
Polls have shown that the J.D., long considered an outsider to the CDU’s top job, has gained popularity in recent weeks.
A foreign policy expert, the 55-year-old ranks between the conservative Friedrich Merz (see below) and the Laschet, loyal to Merkel.
In a recent debate, Röttgen said he did not belong to either side of the party, adding: “I am for everyone … for the modern center.”
Millionaire businessman Friedrich Merz
Lawyer Friedrich Merz had disappeared from the CDU scene, only to reappear in 2018 to run for the party presidency after Merkel left him in 2018.
But Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, 65, was narrowly beaten in the second round. AKK, as she is known in the German media, resigned from the post in February last year, sparking this latest leadership contest.
Merz considers himself economically liberal and is particularly popular with the party’s conservative wing and with the party’s youth.
He was a member of the Bundestag until 2009 before working for a long period in the business, most recently as chairman of the board of directors of investment management firm BlackRock Asset Management Deutschland AG, as well as earning millions as a corporate lawyer.
Merz has made no secret of his desire to break with Merkel’s form of politics and lead the CDU down a path of traditional social conservatism.
He is also the most controversial of the three candidates, and some of his statements caused public outrage; He drew criticism in recent months when he seemed to compare homosexuality and pedophilia.
In September, when asked during an interview if he could imagine a homosexual chancellor, he said: “As long as this is within the law and as long as it does not affect children, at this point, however, an absolute limit is set. has reached, this is not a matter of public debate. “
Whoever wins is not guaranteed a chance to be Germany’s next chancellor
Senior party figures, including Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble, have hinted that the winning candidate may not be guaranteed a chance to be chancellor in September, as the CDU and CSU could nominate someone else after the March state elections, which will also be a litmus. test for the new CDU leader.
Traditionally, the head of the Christian Democrats is also the party’s candidate for chancellor, but this year, Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) and Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) are also being touted as possible. candidates due to their consistently high scores in the center.
However, Spahn had recently denied reports that he was considering this and Söder has also emphasized that his place is in Bavaria.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism