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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Germany election: Merkel heir under fire as German parties meet


German conservative leader Armin Laschet is facing mounting unrest within his party, after their historic defeat in federal elections.

As he and the other party leaders met with colleagues to discuss their next steps, support for his coalition bid dwindled.

When Bavarian Premier Markus Söder said that the centre left had the best chance, he offered little hope.

Olaf Scholz, the election winner, will require the support of two other parties.

The Social Democrat leader has called for urgent talks with the Greens and liberals, but their leaders will first meet.

Opinion polls show widespread support for a three-way government, which has boosted Mr Scholz’s confidence.

Because of the party colours, half of Germans want his party to govern the country alongside the Greens and the pro-business FDP in what they call a “traffic light” coalition.

The Bavarian premier stated that “there is a small possibility that the traffic light will not work”: the conservatives were willing to enter coalition talks but would not ingratiate themselves.

Only 22% of Germans believe Mr. Laschet’s conservative CDU should lead a “Jamaica” coalition.

The conservatives chose Armin Laschet to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor after she served for 16 years.

Even before the election, the CDU was irritated by his campaign gaffes. While his poll ratings fell, Markus Söder remained popular as the leader of the CSU, Bavaria’s sister party.

Internal discontent has erupted now that the conservatives have received only 24.1 percent of the vote:

  • Marcus Mündlein, CDU youth leader in the east, called for a “real, fresh start” and for Mr Laschet to resign
  • “We lost the election, full stop,” says CDU youth wing leader Tilman Kuban
  • Economics Minister Peter Altmaier says the party has no “God-given” right to form a coalition
  • Bernd Althusmann, head of the CDU leader in Lower Saxony in the north-west says voters want change and “we should humbly and respectfully accept” their will
  • Volker Bouffier, state premier in Hesse in central Germany, says the party has “no claim” to run the country now
  • Local party member Ellen Demuth said: “You lost – be reasonable; prevent more damage to the CDU and step down.”

On Tuesday, conservative colleagues in Berlin discussed approaching Mr Söder about leading a coalition with the Greens and liberals. “It’s Mr Scholz who has the best chance of becoming chancellor,” said the Bavarian leader.

The losing candidate does not have no supporters, but they are dwindling.

Julia Klöckner, a leading CDU figure, is one of the few who has publicly supported a CDU-led government: the party needs to renew itself, but she believes it can do so while in government.

Christoph Ploss, the CDU’s top official in Hamburg, said the party should “take soundings” with potential coalition partners: “We have to move forward step by step.”

Two separate polls show that a government led by Olaf Scholz has widespread support.

According to a Forsa poll, 56 percent wanted him to be chancellor, 11 percent preferred Mr Laschet, and 67 percent thought he should resign.

According to a Civey institute poll, as many as 71 percent of those polled are opposed to the conservative leader becoming chancellor.

SIMPLE GUIDE: What you need to know about Germany’s election

Meanwhile, the centre left is keen to force the pace with potential coalition partners.

“We have invited the Greens and the FDP to hold exploratory talks with us this week, if they want,” said parliamentary group leader Rolf Mützenich.

They don’t appear to be in a hurry, and in addition to finding common ground, they need to make internal decisions.

Annalena Baerbock, the Greens’ leader, did not have a great election, squandering a lead in opinion polls despite her party reaching a historic high of nearly 15%.

Robert Habeck, her co-leader, stepped back during the campaign but has his sights set on Germany’s top finance job, which is currently held by Olaf Scholz. However, Christian Lindner, the leader of the pro-business FDP, is also interested in the position.

If the two parties are to participate in government, they must agree on jobs as well as policies.

Even though the liberals are more naturally aligned with the center-right on economics, they share a lot of social values with the Greens.

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