The conservative bloc candidate for Chancery, Armin Laschet , is fighting for power from his position as natural successor to Angela Merkel, although weighed down by the polls and by his status as ‘option B’ to take over from the chancellor.
The succession that Merkel longed for is captured in an image from July 2019, with the chancellor sitting next to the leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, and Ursula von der Leyen, on the way to preside over the European Commission (EC ).
Kramp-Karrenbauer , loyal to the Merkel line, had established herself as the leader of the party that Merkel presided over for 18 years and was the favorite to lead the conservative bloc in the 2021 elections. But the new leader threw in the towel a few months later, unable to consolidate its leadership. The search for the successor ‘B’ began, which after hard internal struggles fell to the centrist Laschet.
It was a continuation bet , for belonging to the same current as Merkel. But at the same time divergent , since neither the mood nor the management of Laschet follow the parameters of the chancellor.
The covid complicated the search for the new leader. The 2020 restrictions forced the postponement of two party congresses, until in January Laschet won the election against his right wing. It was not his last internal battle. The candidacy for the Chancellery remained to be resolved, something that is resolved by consensus between the CDU and its sister Christian-Social Union of Bavaria (CSU).
Laschet, prime minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, the most populous in the country, had erratic management against the pandemic . He moved away from Merkel’s cautious line, in a rush to reopen the economy in an industrialized land , but with pockets of poverty. CSU leader Markus Söder did the opposite. He rigorously enforced the restrictions and his credibility soared.
Söder aspired to fight for the Chancellery, boosted by citizen appreciation. Their fight brought out the cracks in the block. Laschet could have yielded as Merkel did in 2002 in favor of the Bavarian Edmund Stoiber. Merkel had been in charge of the CDU for two years, but the strong men of the party saw her incapable of reaching the chancellery. Laschet did not pull away . He won the game by asserting the weight of the CDU, with 200 deputies in the Bundestag compared to 46 in the CSU, according to EFE .
A treacherous laugh
Just turned 60, a father of three, a Catholic and a lawyer, Laschet started the race for the Chancellery in March. His designation coincided with that of the green Annalena Baerbock and while the intention to vote in favor of the ecologist soared. It was a momentary effect, as the green rise soon dissipated.
But that didn’t help Laschet either. Mismanagement during the pandemic was followed by devastating floods in the west of the country , with 190 deaths between their land and neighboring Rhineland Palatinate. There, some images were viralized in which he appeared with laughter , visiting an affected region and while the president of the country, Frank Walter Steinmeier, expressed his support for the victims.
An unthinkable procedure for anyone who aspires to the position of Merkel. His crash began in the polls , while the Social Democrat Olaf Scholz, vice chancellor and finance minister, rose.
Rhenish, friendly and familiar
Laschet has publicly regretted that laugh. His conservative bloc has closed ranks around the candidate, despite signs of panic at the prospect of the move to the opposition. Your candidate perseveres in his campaign, travels the country looking for the voter and, at the same time, continues to lead the land with 18 million inhabitants. With an affable face, Laschet often portrays himself as a familiar type and consumer of the popular crime series Tatort , a kind of identity mark for ordinary German.
The son of a miner from Aachen, he grew up in a family with strong Catholic roots, dominant in his region, once the red heart of the country and a Social Democratic stronghold. He was not a prodigious student, but rather a repeater. He had to strain to finish law and established himself as a lawyer.
At the age of 18 he joined the CDU, in 1994 he entered the Bundestag (Federal Parliament) with a seat by direct mandate from his district. In 1999 he became a MEP and from 2005 he returned to the regional level as Minister of the Land Family .
He presents himself as a simple man, who dedicates himself with passion to the Rhineland carnivals -another sign of identity, in this case regional-, without avoiding risky parodies and disguises. If anything brings him closer to the chancellor’s profile, it is an inexhaustible capacity for work. It is said of him that he does not abandon a negotiation until a consensus is reached.