The battle to lead Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc into September’s election is headed for a final showdown, with a decision likely at some point in the next 48 hours.
Armin Laschet, who leads Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, and Markus Soeder, who runs the CDU’s Bavarian sister party CSU, were holding “constructivetalks,” but have yet to come up with a solution, a CDU spokeswoman said without giving any further details. The two candidates have been holding secret negotiations since Friday at an undisclosed location in Germany.
Both leaders had pledged not to let the dispute drag on but missed their self-imposed Friday deadline for an agreement. Given the current stalemate, there is growing concern among party leaders that any escalation of the standoff could cause irreversible damage to Merkel’s conservative bloc five months before the national election.
In the latest poll by the institute Kantar, the CDU/CSU bloc is only 7 percentage points ahead of the Green party, which will nominate its chancellor candidate on Monday. Both Soeder and Laschet had made clear that they aim for a decision before the Greens’ announcement.
Polls have consistently showed that Soeder would comfortably defeat his main rivals if there were a direct vote for chancellor in the general election, while Laschet would lose.
There is growing pressure on Laschet from within his own party to back down and allow Soeder to lead the bloc. CDU lawmaker Christian von Stetten told Bloomberg on Sunday that Laschet’s leadership bid would be rejected by a caucus of CDU and CSU lawmakers in the coming days.
Last week, von Stetten put together a list of 70 CDU lawmakers who demanded a caucus vote as early as Monday. The number has increased over the weekend, as members of the party openly revolted against Laschet, he said. Von Stetten also challenged the party leadership’s position that only its members were authorized to recommend a chancellor candidate.
The conservatives’ influential youth organization, Junge Union, will hold an online vote Sunday night at 8 p.m. after its ultimatum for a decision passed Saturday evening. That vote is expected to deliver a clear majority for Soeder. His supporters expect that Laschet would try to avoid the embarrassment of such an outcome by handing the candidacy to the CSU leader before that poll.©2021 Bloomberg L.P. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC