Contender to Succeed Merkel Says He’s Staying Put in Bavaria

Arne Delfs
·3 min read

(Bloomberg) -- Markus Soeder, the state premier of Bavaria, indicated that he’s not interested in entering the race to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor.

“My place is here in Bavaria, not in Berlin,” Soeder said Wednesday at an event in Passau organized by his Christian Social Union. “But I would be glad to help.”

The Bavarian party is the sister of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, and together they traditionally field a common candidate for chancellor in national elections. With only two exceptions since World War II, the bloc’s candidate has always been from the CDU.

But things could work out differently this time. The CDU is in the midst of a power struggle after Merkel’s chosen successor -- Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer -- failed to unify the party after a rocky 14-month tenure. She stepped down earlier this month, and a new leader will be decided on April 25 at a special convention in Berlin, the German capital.

Armin Laschet, the premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, became the clear front-runner on Tuesday after winning the support of Health Minister Jens Spahn, a vocal conservative who also touted as a leading contender. But Laschet, a moderate in Merkel’s mold, is untested on the national stage and needs to convince the CDU’s unsettled base that he can lead them in the post-Merkel era.

Friedrich Merz, a long-time antagonist of the German leader, vowed to stay in the race and said his chances this time are better than in 2018, when he narrowly lost to Kramp-Karrenbauer. Norbert Roettgen, who was fired by Merkel as environment minister in 2012, is also in the running.

Soeder steered clear of naming a preference, saying all candidates are “highly competent” and the CSU would work with whoever wins.

Despite saying he wanted to continue to lead Bavaria, Soeder’s speech was filled with national political issues, including extended attacks on the Greens and the far-right Alternative for Germany.

He also noted that the CSU would have a say in ultimately choosing the bloc’s chancellor candidate for the next elections, currently slated for fall 2021. His deputies have underscored the Bavarian group’s role in choosing the candidate for the bloc, which has governed Germany for most of its post-war history.

“Timing is absolutely key to achieving success in the general election,” CSU General Secretary Markus Blume said Wednesday in an interview with ZDF television. “It’s important that the CDU settles the question of its leader and then have all the time in the world. I think that rather next year we should sit down and the party leaders should decide on which candidate will have the best chance of success.”

--With assistance from Iain Rogers.

To contact the reporter on this story: Arne Delfs in Berlin at adelfs@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net, Chris Reiter, Andrew Blackman

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