Of the three candidates in the running, he was the closest to Angela Merkel. It was ultimately he who won. Armin Laschet, Minister-President of the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia, was elected on Saturday January 16, president of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Eight months before the legislative elections of September 26, this victory could make him the next Conservative candidate for the post of Federal Chancellor, and therefore the possible successor of Merkel at the head of the German government.
Two other candidates were in the running: Friedrich Merz, former member of Parliament converted into business and champion of the right wing of the party, and Norbert Röttgen, chairman of the Bundstag’s foreign affairs committee. After a tight first round, Armin Laschet won the second against Friedrich Merz with 52.8 votes. Due to the Covid-19 epidemic, the ballot was conducted electronically, with the 1,001 CDU delegates called to vote not being physically present in the Berlin exhibition center, where the three candidates stood. are expressed in front of an empty room, Saturday morning, on the occasion of this “digital congress”.
By electing Armin Laschet, the party delegates made the choice of experience, continuity and unity, failing that of daring and novelty. Experience, first: elected in 2017 at the head of North Rhine-Westphalia after having been federal deputy (1994-1999), European deputy (1999-2004) then minister and regional deputy in From 2010, he has repeatedly said, in recent weeks, that the fact of leading the most populous Land in Germany (18 million inhabitants out of 85 million) gives him the legitimacy to claim to govern the entire country .
In his camp, some feared that some of his positions at the start of the Covid-19 epidemic, against too strict confinement and for a rapid relaxation of the restrictive measures, would cost him the election as head of the party. Since the fall, Armin Laschet has made sure to adopt a more vigilant and firm line, in line with that of the Chancellor, acclaimed in public opinion. This arguably helped him win Saturday’s election.
Continuity, then. Aged 59, this curvaceous and happy jovial man has always been a staunch ally of Ms. Merkel within the CDU, including during the refugee crisis in 2015, where he supported his reception policy, consistent with long-held convictions: ten years earlier, he himself had been minister responsible for integration issues for the regional government of North Rhine-Westphalia, forging bonds of trust in particular with the Turkish community, in not to be given the nickname of“Armin the Turk”. In recent weeks, he has repeatedly said that“A break with Angela Merkel would be madness”.
The gathering, finally. By declaring his candidacy for the presidency of the CDU, in February 2020, after the unexpected announcement of the departure of Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, elected at the head of the party fourteen months earlier, Armin Laschet immediately announced that he presented himself in “Ticket” with Jens Spahn, the Minister of Health, twenty years his junior. At the time, many described this alliance with this young wolf from the CDU as baroque, who made himself known in 2015 for his resolute opposition to Merkel’s policy in favor of refugees. Electorally, it will have paid off, the presence of Mr. Spahn at his side having obviously enabled Mr. Laschet to broaden his spectrum by winning the votes of more conservative delegates that he would not have convinced on his own.
With Armin Laschet, finally, the CDU operates a sort of homecoming. Born in the suburb of Aix-la-Chapelle, this practicing Catholic, father of three children, perfectly embodies this Rhenish, centrist and European CDU which was that of Konrad Adenauer and Helmut Kohl, much more than that of Angela Merkel , Protestant, divorced, childless and raised in East Germany. The audience granted him by Pope Francis in Rome on October 1 reminded him of this.
Probable candidate for the chancellery
One question remains. Will Armin Laschet be the Conservatives’ next candidate for chancellery? A priori, the answer should be yes: since the birth of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949, the leader of the CDU has always sought the post of Federal Chancellor, except on two occasions where he gave way to his counterpart of the CSU, the allied party of the CDU in Bavaria, which was never elected chancellor at the end (Franz-Josef Strauss in 1980 then Edmund Stoiber in 2002).
This year, such a scenario is quite possible. According to the polls, it is indeed the president of the CSU, Markus Söder, that conservative voters today consider to be the most suitable to succeed Angela Merkel as head of the federal government, Armin Laschet enjoying this point. view of catastrophic opinion polls: according to the latest political barometer of the public channel ZDF, published on Friday, only 28% of those questioned believe that he has the stature of a chancellor, against 54% for Markus Söder.
Now that he is at the head of the powerful CDU, will Armin Laschet be ready to step aside behind the leader of the “small” CSU? Or, as others would dream of, to make way for the young Jens Spahn, who has taken advantage of his post as Minister of Health to considerably strengthen his popularity since the start of the Covid-19 epidemic?
To do this, they would first have to lift the veil on their own ambitions. Until then, Mr Spahn has always denied rumors that say he is ready to launch into the battle for the chancellery. As for Mr Söder, he has always repeated that “ [sa] place is in Bavaria ”, even if more and more voices believe it is now in Berlin that its political future lies.