The party of German Chancellor Angela Merkel faces the dilemma of finding a successor that is acceptable to all, and Saturday organizes a debate for this purpose between three potential candidates to fill her place, as part of a campaign that has been largely impeded by the outbreak of the Covid-19 epidemic.
The three are the moderate Armin Laschet, the liberal Frederick Meretz and the former Minister Norbert Rottgen.
In front of them, until the beginning of December, the date for the conference of the conservative Christian party “Christian Democratic Union” to choose the new leader, to prove their capabilities.
The party leader has a real chance to be the right’s candidate for the chancellery in the legislative elections scheduled for October 2021, after which Merkel will leave the duties she has held for 16 years.
Defense Minister Angret Kramp-Karnbauer, who was considered Merkel’s natural successor, left the party leadership in early February, citing a weakening of her authority within the party.
The search for a new conservative leader seems more arduous than before at a time when Merkel, who is ruling out running for a fifth term, enjoys unprecedented popularity, boosted by her good management of the outbreak of the Covid-19 epidemic in Germany.
The health crisis dominated all other issues and made it difficult to campaign for Merkel’s succession, as most of the field gatherings and field trips were canceled.
The Saturday debate, organized by the Christian Democratic Union Youth Movement, will be held online and without an audience.
On her part, the chancellor did not interfere in her party’s internal affairs and did not express support for any of the candidates.
Merkel found herself more than once forced to put points on the letters and assert that she “really” is not a candidate, at a time when the three candidates for the position do not meet with tangible enthusiasm in the opinion polls.
And an opinion poll on the popularity of the candidates published on Friday showed that the moderate candidate Armin Laschet (59 years), who heads North Rhine-Westphalia, and the liberal Frederik Merz (64 years), neither of them had more than 27% approval ratings.
Lachit, who heads Germany’s most populous state and the one most affected by the epidemic, at the start of the summer, pushed his policy to initiate a rapid reopening in order to revive the economy.
Since then, Laschet has become more discreet, and he is counting on the support of Health Minister Jens Spahn, who is also well-known, for his management of the epidemic crisis.
Frederick Meretz, for his part, is less fond of Merkel.
And due to his lack of government position, he did not play a major role in the issue of managing the epidemic.
His liberal hard-line stances are also inconsistent with the massive aid the government decided to support the economy during the crisis.
As for Norbert Rottgen, he has previously held the position of environment minister and is a specialist in international issues and is having difficulty changing his image as an expert in party circles.
Upon his appointment, the new Christian Democratic Union leader will find himself facing rival Marco Sudir, 53, the Bavarian prime minister and leader of the Christian Social Union, the sister party of Merkel’s party in Bavaria.
And in case he decides to enter the race, he is far ahead in the polls over the other candidates from the right, green and left.
And it won a 52 percent approval rating in the most recent poll conducted for the “ARD” channel.
Soder benefited from his assumption of the temporary presidency of the German Regions Conference, which allowed him to stand by Merkel during every press conference devoted to the epidemic.
In return, the conservatives have no real competition for the position of chancellery in other political currents.
The official Social Democrat candidate, incumbent Finance Minister Olaf Schultz, is facing a fraud scandal, while environmentalists and the far right face difficulties in addressing issues related to the health crisis.