‘One team’? German CDU’s chancellor pick Laschet calls for ‘unity’ in conservative bloc, promises ‘central role’ to rival Soeder

‘One team’? German CDU’s chancellor pick Laschet calls for ‘unity’ in conservative bloc, promises ‘central role’ to rival Soeder

Armin Laschet has called on Germany’s center-right CDU/CSU bloc to remain “one team” and offered his former rival, Markus Soeder, a “central role” in it, after securing his place as candidate for chancellor.

“We all know what is at stake,” the newly chosen candidate said following his nomination on Tuesday by the Christian Democratic Union. If the bloc’s rivals, the Social Democrats, and their allies on the left secure a victory at the general elections in September, Germany will be “a different republic,” he said.

“The CDU will not win without the CSU and vice versa,” Laschet said, referring to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and their long-time Bavarian allies, the Christian Social Union, often referred to as the CDU’s “sister party.”

Laschet was elected to lead the CDU in January, taking over from Merkel’s previous would-be successor Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. He fought for the nomination against CSU head Markus Soeder. Both candidates stressed the need for unity during their campaigns, but neither agreed to concede in what was seen as a rather tense campaign that “went into overtime,” according to some German media.

Eventually, Laschet, a staunch Merkel loyalist, secured an overwhelming victory over his Bavarian rival by getting 31 out of 46 the CDU executive board votes. Now he is apparently seeking to soothe the rivalry by offering Soeder a prominent place within the bloc ahead of elections.

Soeder will play a “central role in the future of the Federal Republic of Germany,” Laschet said, adding that he is ready to coordinate his policy with the CSU head “whenever it is necessary,” including on a “daily” basis if need be. Still, when asked if the CDU made any concessions to Soeder for him to agree with such an outcome, Laschet simply answered: “No.”

Laschet also said he would also welcome “very open” and even controversial discussions within the CDU/CSU bloc that’s also referred to as the Union. So far, however, his political program appears to be very much in line with what Germany’s long-time chancellor Merkel did during her tenure.

He once again emphasized the importance of Europe and “multilateral solutions,” saying Europeans must actively contribute to a “better world” including by countering “authoritarian social models.” He said Germany must lead by example and be a nation “of diversity.” The incumbent CDU chairman is also known as a strong proponent of EU integration.

The CDU might still have a rather rocky road ahead, however. At the beginning of the pandemic, the party regained some of the support it lost due to Merkel’s ‘open door’ policy in the wake of the 2015 refugee crisis, but its popularity dipped again during the chaotic vaccine rollout.

The Greens are also breathing down the Union’s neck. The party trails in second place after CDU/CSU in opinion polls with a single-digit margin and its co-chair, Annalena Baerbock, also has her eye on the top job.

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