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Merkel’s conservatives fail to reach deal on who will be chancellor candidate

Two conservative leaders locked in battle for Angela Merkel's crown failed to reach a deal by their self-imposed deadline, pushing the chancellor's CDU-CSU alliance deeper into crisis Monday months before elections.

Merkel's conservatives fail to reach deal on who will be chancellor candidate
Armin Laschet and Markus Söder on April 11th. Photo: DPA

Armin Laschet, the chief of Merkel’s CDU party, and Markus Söder, the leader of Bavaria sister party CSU, have been in a scrum for a week over who will lead the conservatives into elections in September.

The rivals had earlier said an agreement would be found by the end of the week but party sources told AFP Sunday that a deal was still out of reach with closed-door negotiations between both men ongoing.

Söder and Laschet flew in on Sunday night to Berlin for talks, German media reported.

As head of the Christian Democratic Union, Merkel loyalist Laschet would normally be the obvious choice for the alliance’s chancellor candidate nomination.

But with support for the parties plumbing new lows amid anger over Germany’s pandemic management, the more popular Söder has put up a formidable challenge against Laschet.

Söder, who declared his bid for the job last Sunday, had then said he would step aside “without resentment” if larger party CDU was to decide for his rival Laschet.

READ ALSO: Merkel’s conservatives in disarray as scrum for Merkel’s job opens wounds

But even after the CDU’s leadership came out a day later in support for Laschet, Soeder refused to back down. Instead, the 54-year-old cited popularity ratings as he dug in his heels.

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.

The infighting has thrown the conservatives into disarray as Merkel is about to bow out after 16 years in power.

It has also sapped energy at a time when Germany is struggling to put down a raging third wave of the coronavirus pandemic that has already claimed almost 80,000 lives in Europe’s biggest economy.

‘Backroom deal’

With no agreement in sight, conservatives up and down the country were calling emergency meetings to thrash out who to support.

The alliance’s youth organisation Junge Union on Sunday voted to back Söder, with 14 out of 18 of its chapters in favour of the Bavarian.

“Both candidates have had enough time to come to a decision. That didn’t happen, so we see ourselves forced to position ourselves,” said Junge Union chief Tilman Kuban.

Meanwhile, some MPs supporting Söder had been collecting signatures to force a vote of the CDU-CSU parliamentary group when they meet on Tuesday.

Party heavyweight Wolfgang Schäuble has hit out against Soeder for undermining the CDU leadership’s endorsement of Laschet as “only a backroom deal”.

The conservative alliance would struggle in the elections without a strong CDU, warned the former finance minister who is also currently speaker of the house.

READ MORE: What you need to know about the two men vying to replace Merkel as Chancellor

Yet others were starting to shift in favour of Söder.

The state premiers of Saarland and Saxony-Anhalt have both indirectly said that Söder should not be written off.

“It is completely clear that the question of with whom one will have the better chance at the elections must play a central role,” said Saarland’s leader Tobias Hans.

By Hui Min NEO

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POLITICS

IN PICTURES: Germany hosts G7 summit with Bavarian twist

G7 leaders are meeting in Bavaria to discuss important issues including Russia's war on Ukraine and the food crisis. The event is known for producing memorable pictures. Here's a look at the best images and tweets so far.

IN PICTURES: Germany hosts G7 summit with Bavarian twist

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The Group of Seven wealthy nations is holding their annual summit in the stunning surroundings of the Bavarian Alps. 

The world leaders are engaged in talks at the Schloss Elmau with a focus on Russia’s war on Ukraine, climate change, energy, the global food crisis and rising inflation. 

The G7 gatherings are known known for producing some memorable photos and amusing moments, and this year is no exception. Here’s a look at the best so far. 

When the G7 summit started on Sunday, the southern state of Bavaria became the standout attraction. 

Leaders of the nations involved – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the USA – were given traditional Bavarian welcomes. 

Spearheaded by Bavarian premier Markus Söder, the leaders were greeted by people clad in Bavarian costumes, such as the dirndl. 

It sparked heated debates on how Germany is portrayed to the rest of the world.  

READ ALSO: Can Scholz create a Merkel-like buzz at the G7 in Bavaria?

Journalist Mathieu von Rohr said on Twitter: “It’s hard to imagine what Söder would have done to Germany’s image in the world as chancellor.”

Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, walks past people wearing traditional Bavarian costumes after his arrival at Munich airport on June 26th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Karmann

Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, walks past people wearing traditional Bavarian costume after his arrival at Munich airport on June 26th.

The left wing newspaper Taz on Monday led with a front page that included this headline: “Finally, indigenous peoples at the G7 summit”.

READ ALSO: Why Bavaria does politics differently to the rest of Germany

The photo of US President Joe Biden signing his name in the Bavarian guest book to Germany produced lots of good captions. 

Nathan Ma poked fun at Germany’s infamous overly complicated contracts that are hard to get out of.

Commentators in Germany have also been making their views known about the events at the summit. 

German broadcaster BR said in an opinion article that the opening G7 event was “like a Monty Python sketch”.

Writer Max Büch said: “Yes, it’s embarrassing that Joe Biden is being coerced by Markus Söder to sign the guestbook at the airport.”

He added: “But people in traditional costume are not embarrassing per se. Even if taz’s ‘indigenous peoples at the G7 summit’ is meant satirically, the title hits a very true core of the image that the rest of Germany still has of Bavaria.”

The southern German traditions continued with Schuhplattler, a traditional style of folk dance popular in the regions of Bavaria and Tyrol. 

“Bavaria makes up perhaps 10 percent of Germany,” one journalist said in another tweet on the Schuhplattler video. “But 90 percent of people abroad think this is all of us.

Bavarian premier Markus Söder defended the opening ceremony. 

He said on Twitter: “Bavaria is the land of homeland and custom: many thanks to our traditional costume associations, musicians and mountain riflemen for their support in welcoming the G7 heads of state. They present the Free State and our traditions with great pride. It was a great backdrop.”

Like every year, the pictures of G7 leaders joking around and getting up, close and personal have also been commented on.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz signals to the other G7 leaders during a photo shoot at Elmau. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler
 
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz signals to the other G7 leaders during a photo shoot at Elmau.
 
We’d love to be a fly on the wall for the private conversations being held between the leaders. Here German Chancellor Olaf Scholz looks on in amusement at British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Elmau on June 26th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Elmau on June 26th.

The lack of women G7 leaders was also commented on. 

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