Armin Laschet emerges as frontrunner to succeed Merkel

Armin Laschet is fast emerging as the frontrunner in the race to be the ruling Christian Democrats’ (CDU) candidate for chancellor in Germany’s federal election next year after Angela Merkel stands down, party sources said cited by news wires. The North Rhine-Westphalia premier, who presents himself as a continuity candidate, is slowly building a majority among the CDU’s voting delegates ahead of December’s vote on the party leadership.

His main CDU rival, businessman Friedrich Merz, remains more popular among voters, but Laschet hopes his own credentials as a tried-and-trusted manager with centrist views will more than compensate for his lack of personal charisma and catapult him into Germany’s top job. “Laschet is currently considered the most likely winner of the internal race,” said one CDU lawmaker, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Laschet has been boosted by local election wins last month in his home state and also by a resurgence in support for Merkel, whose competent handling of the coronavirus pandemic has showcased her managerial style of leading from the political centreground. In an August visit to North Rhine-Westphalia, Merkel said Laschet had “the tools” to run for chancellor, the closest she has come to endorsing any of the contenders.

His centrist views mean Laschet would be better suited to negotiate a possible future coalition government with the resurgent Greens, the CDU sources say. Opinion polls suggest the Greens are the most realistic coalition partner for the CDU/CSU.

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