‘We lost’: CDU’s Laschet faces calls to resign over German election disaster

Pressure was mounting Tuesday on Armin Laschet to quit after his conservatives lost to the Social Democrats in Germany's election, further complicating his bid to form the next government after the disastrous vote.

CDU leader and chancellor candidate Armin Laschet is driven away after defeat in Germany's federal election on Sunday.
CDU leader and chancellor candidate Armin Laschet is driven away after defeat in Germany's federal election on Sunday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

Laschet’s CDU-CSU conservative alliance brought home its worst election result in post-war Germany of 24.1 percent, behind Olaf Scholz’s SPD on 25.7 percent.

But Laschet, the conservative bloc’s hope to succeed veteran Chancellor Angela Merkel, has insisted his party will still try to build a governing coalition and is ready for talks with the Greens and the liberal FDP for a possible partnership.

Though he admitted he could “not be satisfied with this result”, Laschet also claimed “no party” – not even the Social Democrats – could claim a mandate to govern from Sunday’s vote outcome.

But calls are growing louder for Laschet to admit defeat and resign, even from within his own party.

“You have lost. Please have some insight. Avert further damage to the #CDU and resign,” Ellen Demuth, a CDU member of the Rhineland-Palatinate state parliament, wrote on Twitter.

“We lost the election. Full stop,” said Tilman Kuban, the head of the CDU’s youth wing.

Marcus Mündlein, the chairman of the party’s youth wing in the state of Saxony, called for “a true new beginning” which he said could “only be successful if our leader and candidate for chancellor, Armin Laschet… resigns”.


A stormy session is expected later Tuesday when the newly elected MPs of the CDU and Bavarian allies CSU sit down together for the first time since the vote.

Heavyweights dethroned

Elected as head of the CDU in January, Laschet was for some time the clear favourite to succeed Angela Merkel when she bows out of politics after Sunday’s election.

But his party’s ratings began to slide as he committed a series of gaffes, including being caught on camera laughing in the background during a solemn tribute to flood victims.

Sunday’s result is the first time the CDU and CSU, a dominant force in German politics since World War II, have scored under 30 percent in a general election.

The vote also saw a number of CDU heavyweights lose their direct mandates, including Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, Defence Minister AnnegretKramp-  and Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner.

Merkel’s former constituency on Germany’s Baltic Sea coast, which she had held since 1990, went to an unknown from the SPD.

READ ALSO: Merkel’s CDU seat held since 1990 snapped up by young SPD candidate

Official figures showed former CDU voters abandoning the party in droves, mostly in favour of the SPD and the Greens. But the party also lost ground to the far-right AfD in the former East Germany.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier called the performance a “crushing defeat” for the CDU, admitting the party had “lost many swing voters”.

Michael Kretschmer, the state premier of Saxony, told the MDR broadcaster on Monday that he saw no clear mandate for the CDU to try to form a government.

‘Strong message from voters’

“I see a strong message from voters, who have made it clear that the (CDU-CSU) is not the first choice this time,” he said.

In a survey for the Funke media group on Monday, 70 percent of respondents said they thought Laschet should resign. Even among CDU supporters, the figure was 51 percent.

ANALYSIS: Who were the real winners and losers of Germany’s race to replace Merkel?

And in another post-election poll for Der Spiegel magazine, 63 percent said they thought Scholz should be Germany’s next chancellor, with only 24 percent backing Laschet.

Bernd Althusmann, the leader of the CDU in Lower Saxony, suggested the party should “humbly and respectfully accept the will of the voters”, while Hesse state premier Volker Bouffier stated plainly: “We have no claim to be in government.”

However, with a reputation for digging his heels in, Laschet has shown before that he does not give up easily – such as when he beat Markus Söder, the head of the CSU, to be named the conservative bloc’s chancellor candidate.

After a drawn-out and bruising battle, Laschet came through to secure the nomination.

Der Spiegel magazine has noted his ability to “sit out” his opponents, wearing them down.

Asked in a TV interview before the election if he thought he was often underestimated, Laschet replied that “many have certainly miscalculated”.


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Germany’s ‘traffic light’ parties sign coalition agreement in Berlin

Two and a half months after the federal elections on September 26th, the three parties of the incoming 'traffic light' coalition - the SPD, Greens and FDP - have formally signed their coalition agreement at a public ceremony in Berlin.

Traffic light coalition
Germany's next Chancellor Olaf Scholz (front, left) on stage in Berlin with other members of the new coalition government, and their signed agreement. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

The move marks the final stage of a 10-week week process that saw the three unlikely bedfellows forming a first-of-its-kind partnership in German federal government. 

The SPD’s Olaf Scholz is now due to be elected Chancellor of Germany on Wednesday and his newly finalised cabinet will be sworn in on the same day. This will mark the end of the 16-year Angela Merkel era following the veteran leader’s decision to retire from politics this year. 

Speaking at the ceremony in Berlin on Tuesday morning, Scholz declared it “a morning when we set out for a new government.”

He praised the speed at which the three parties had concluded their talks and said the fight against the Covid crisis would first require the full strength of the new coalition.

Green Party co-leader Robert Habeck, who is set to head up a newly formed environment and energy ministry, said the goal was “a government for the people of Germany”.

He stressed that the new government would face the joint challenge of bringing climate neutrality and prosperity together in Europe’s largest industrial nation and the world’s fourth largest economy.

Green Party leader Annalena Baerbock spoke of a coalition agreement “on the level of reality, on the level of social reality”.

FDP leader Christian Lindner, who managed to secure the coveted role of Finance Minister in the talks, declared that now was the “time for action”.

“We are not under any illusions,” he told people gathered at the ceremony. “These are great challenges we face.”

Scholz, Habeck and Lindner are scheduled to hold  a press conference before midday to answer questions on the goals of the new government.

‘New beginnings’

Together with the Greens and the FDP, Scholz’s SPD managed in a far shorter time than expected to forge a coalition that aspires to make Germany greener and fairer.

The Greens became the last of the three parties to agree on the contents of the 177-page coalition agreement an in internal vote on Monday, following approval from the SPD and FDP’s inner ranks over the weekend.

“I want the 20s to be a time of new beginnings,” Scholz told Die Zeit weekly, declaring an ambition to push forward “the biggest industrial modernisation which will be capable of stopping climate change caused by mankind”.

Putting equality rhetoric into practice, he unveiled the country’s first gender-balanced cabinet on Monday, with women in key security portfolios.

“That corresponds to the society we live in – half of the power belongs to women,” said Scholz, who describes himself as a “feminist”.

READ ALSO: Scholz names Germany’s first gender-equal cabinet

The centre-left’s return to power in Europe’s biggest economy could shift the balance on a continent still reeling from Brexit and with the other major player, France, heading into presidential elections in 2022.

But even before it took office, Scholz’s “traffic-light” coalition – named after the three parties’ colours – was already given a baptism of fire in the form of a fierce fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Balancing act
Dubbed “the discreet” by left-leaning daily TAZ, Scholz, 63, is often described as austere or robotic.
But he also has a reputation for being a meticulous workhorse.
An experienced hand in government, Scholz was labour minister in Merkel’s first coalition from 2007 to 2009 before taking over as vice chancellor and finance minister in 2015.
Yet his three-party-alliance is the first such mix at the federal level, as the FDP is not a natural partner for the SPD or the Greens.

Keeping the trio together will require a delicate balancing act taking into account the FDP’s business-friendly leanings, the SPD’s social equality instincts and the Greens’ demands for sustainability.

Under their coalition deal, the parties have agreed to secure Germany’s path to carbon neutrality, including through huge investments in sustainable energy.

They also aim to return to a constitutional no-new-debt rule – suspended during the pandemic – by 2023.

FDP cabinets
Volker Wissing (l-r), FDP General Secretary und designated Transport Minister, walks alongside Christian Lindner, FDP leader and designated Finance Minister, Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP), the incoming Education Minister, and Marco Buschmann, the incoming Justice Minister. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler


Incoming foreign minister Annalena Baerbock of the Greens has vowed to put human rights at the centre of German diplomacy.

She has signalled a more assertive stance towards authoritarian regimes like China and Russia after the commerce-driven pragmatism of Merkel’s 16 years in power.

Critics have accused Merkel of putting Germany’s export-dependent economy first in international dealings.

Nevertheless she is still so popular at home that she would probably have won a fifth term had she sought one.

The veteran politician is also widely admired abroad for her steady hand guiding Germany through a myriad of crises.