Angela Merkel will complete her fourth and last term after the Bundestag election, scheduled for September 26th. And, despite the screed of a coronavirus crisis which is redoubling across the Rhine, the battle for his succession is raging. The congress by videoconference of the Christian Democratic Party (CDU), which is held on Friday and Saturday, should decide between three of those who are eyeing the chancellery with more and more insistence.
Friedrich Merz, Armin Laschet and Norbert Röttgen are running for the presidency of the party, a post generally considered as the springboard to the head of the list of the CDU and therefore the supreme function, if the party confirms the position of big favorite of the poll that gives it today hui all polls. Repressed during the Covid period, a very bitter policy debate resurfaced at the same time with force. Angela Merkel’s reputedly centrist line is openly contested.
Pressurized by a right wing proclaiming the need for realignment on “The conservative fundamentals” of the party, the chancellor had to throw in the towel at the end of 2018 by leaving her presidency and announcing that she would no longer seek a new mandate in the chancellery. The three candidates for the highest office who compete today remain marked by this conservative push.
Race favorite Friedrich Merz, 65, denounces a lack of “Rigor” in migration matters and cultivates a reactionary inclination on societal issues, such as homosexuality or abortion. Above all, it embodies a very orthodox and financialized liberal orientation. Until 2018, he was the representative of the US juggernaut BlackRock in Europe. He unsurprisingly advocates a very Atlanticist line, full of praise for Joe Biden, with whom he wants to proclaim “The great return of the transatlantic partnership”, on security aspects (NATO) such as free trade (large market project between the two shores of the ocean). He is supported by some of the caciques very close to the employers. He had failed by a hair to seize the reins of the party in 2018, against Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (AKK). Proclaimed candidate of the Chancellor, the latter could only impose herself by concluding a Faustian pact with the most openly nationalist movement; method which was fatal to him.
Armin Laschet, 59, Minister President of the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia, is trying to take over by in turn donning the costume of the Chancellor’s legitimate heir. Only, for fear of being in the minority, he tries to renew an alliance with the leader of the national-liberal movement of the party, embodied by Jens Spahn, the young and ambitious Minister of Health. A risky strategy. Was she not at the origin of the political debacle which forced AKK to resign hastily from the presidency of the party in early 2020? The controversy then swelled around an unprecedented regional alliance of the CDU with the AfD (far right) in Thuringia to take the skin of the outgoing Minister-President Die Linke. Not succeeding in calming the ardor of its troops, AKK paid a heavy price for it. Even if she has in the meantime become Minister of Defense.
Norbert Röttgen, 55, the third man in the race, specialist in foreign policy, denounced in 2015 the provisional opening of the German border to Syrian refugees. He displays a rather classic conservatism, partisan of an ordoliberalism mixed with a lot of Atlanticism. Less affirmative on his determination to become chancellor, he is in favor of a post-electoral alliance with the Greens alone, by rejecting the liberal party (FDP), deemed not reliable enough to have closed the door in 2017 to a tripartite coalition (CDU -Verts-FDP). Röttgen is often thought to run in order to ultimately make way for the leader of a Bavarian CSU who was in turn against Merkel’s migration policy. Markus Söder, Minister-President of Bavaria, who is said to be popular because of his management of the Covid, does not deny and is building, less and less discreetly, a profile of providential man in reserve of the Republic.