“We know from the USA what it means to have polarised election campaigns, and we know how long it took and is taking a new president to once again reconcile the country,” said Armin Laschet, leader of the Christian Democratic
“We should spare ourselves that in Germany,” he added.
Laschet, who is state premier of Germany’s most populous state North Rhine-Westphalia, has been locked in a power struggle against his Bavarian challenger Markus Soeder, leader of the CSU party, over who will lead the conservatives into general elections on September 26th.
Overnight talks in Berlin between the two men on Sunday evening produced no result, fuelling speculation that the candidacy issue may be settled by a vote amongst parliamentarians from the CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the CSU,
On Monday, Laschet announced further talks among his party’s leadership, while Soeder made a thinly veiled call for the larger CDU to back him as the more popular candidate.
Söder, who declared his bid for the job a week ago, on Monday repeated his promise to step aside “without resentment” if the CDU nominated Laschet.
Yet having refused to back down when the CDU leadership came out in support for Laschet last week, the 54-year-old said he was ready to take the job if he had “broad backing” from the CDU.
“Broad backing means when the board, parliamentary group and rank and file all want it,” he added.
“It is important to respect the members, the MPs and the population in general,” said Söder, noting that he had received support for his candidacy from the wider public.
A recent poll by public broadcaster ARD showed 44 percent of Germans in favour of Söder as most qualified as the CDU-CSU’s chancellor candidate.
Laschet only had 15 percent of support.
Yet Söder also said that he would accept a decision from the CDU if it favoured Laschet.
“We don’t want to and we won’t see a rift between the CSU and the CDU,” he insisted.
Divisions in the conservative camp were further underlined on Monday as the Greens – who are polling second behind the CDU-CSU – announced co-chair Annalena Baerbock as their candidate at a slick press event with no signs of strife within the centre-left party.
Congratulating Baerbock on the nomination, Laschet promised a “fair election campaign” and urged parties to be “respectful” of each other in a veiled warning to Söder.
The CSU leader struck a more combative note, saying that he disagreed with the Greens’ “core ideology” when it came to social and economic policy.
Laschet said he had also invited Söder to Monday’s talks, yet the Bavarian said he would not be able to make it back to Berlin in time to take part.
“We need to talk to each other a lot in these days. The aim is that the CDU-CSU wins the elections, and that can only happen if we are together,” said Laschet.