New CDU leader lags Bavarian premier in race to succeed Merkel
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[January 18, 2021]
BERLIN (Reuters) - Armin Laschet,
the new leader of Germany's Christian Democrats, has yet to convince
voters he would be a better choice than Bavarian premier Markus Soeder
to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel after elections in September, a poll
showed on Monday.
Centrist Laschet positioned himself on Saturday as the man to heal
divisions among Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) after party
delegates chose him to lead the party, putting him in pole position to
succeed her as chancellor.
However, 36% of voters would still prefer Soeder to be chancellor
candidate for Merkel's conservative alliance, a survey of 2,000 voters
by pollster Forsa for broadcaster RTL/ntv conducted after Saturday's
vote showed. Laschet followed on 21%.
Soeder leads the Christian Social Union (CSU), Bavarian sister party to
the CDU. Together they form the conservative "Union". Usually - but not
always - their candidate for chancellor comes from the CDU.
The Union has twice fielded a CSU candidate. Both lost. But the narrow
521-466 margin of Laschet's runoff victory for the CDU leadership over
arch-conservative Friedrich Merz highlights the challenge Laschet faces
in uniting the alliance.
Despite Merkel's four successive federal election victories, the Union
has never been entirely comfortable with her centrist course.
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North Rhine-Westphalia's State Premier and candidate for the leader
of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Armin Laschet gestures as he
delivers his speech during the second day of the party's 33rd
congress held online amidst the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
pandemic, in Berlin, Germany January 16, 2021. Odd Andersen/Pool via
"For the CDU, the close vote means that tensions within the party
about its fundamental direction will continue," JP Morgan analyst
Greg Fuzesi said. "A large section of the party clearly wanted to
shift in a conservative direction."
Soeder, 54, has shifted from the right towards the moderate centre
of late. He plays coy about his ambitions - "My place is in Bavaria"
has been his repeated refrain.
However, Soeder has also said the CDU and CSU will decide together
who should run for chancellor, and called on the Union to decide on
its candidate only after state elections in mid-March.
(Reporting by Paul Carrel; Editing by Angus MacSwan)
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