BAVARIAN LEADER JOINS RACE TO SUCCEED MERKEL
The range of choices for a successor to German Chancellor Angela Merkel widened on Sunday when Bavarian state premier Markus Soeder said he would compete with Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leader Armin Laschet to top the center-right ticket, Ulrich Steinkohl, Joerg Blank and Christoph Trost reported for Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa).
The two presented the choice as an amiable race after what Soeder described as a friendly exchange on Saturday. "We have both declared we are ready," said Soeder. But the move adds another wrinkle to Merkel's succession plans, which have already taken several hits.
Her initial choice, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, removed herself from the running after a series of gaffes. In doing so, Kramp-Karrenbauer also gave up as CDU leader, but it took the better part of a year to replace her because of the logistics of staging a party conference during a pandemic.
Then Laschet's win presented a different problem. Although he is, in many ways, on the same political page as Merkel, he has proven divisive because of his tendency to support a faster reopening of the economy, despite the fact that coronavirus infection rates were never fully brought under control.
Germany is now facing a third wave of infections, but leaders have yet to present a new plan on how to control the disease.
That presents a stark contrast with Soeder, who has spent most of the last year calling for more strict shutdowns to counter infections. But picking Soeder also carries some political risks.
First and foremost, the CDU does not exist in Bavaria, meaning he is from the more socially conservative CDU sister party, the Christian Social Union. Although the two work together, Soeder can only top the ticket if he convinces members of another party to back him.
Soeder said the race was about the success of the bloc overall and the best for the country, and if the CDU was ready to support him, he would step up. He also called for the participation of the parliamentary faction in making that decision.