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Merkel’s conservatives fail to reach deal on who will be chancellor candidate

Two conservative leaders locked in battle for Angela Merkel's crown failed to reach a deal by their self-imposed deadline, pushing the chancellor's CDU-CSU alliance deeper into crisis Monday months before elections.

Merkel's conservatives fail to reach deal on who will be chancellor candidate
Armin Laschet and Markus Söder on April 11th. Photo: DPA

Armin Laschet, the chief of Merkel’s CDU party, and Markus Söder, the leader of Bavaria sister party CSU, have been in a scrum for a week over who will lead the conservatives into elections in September.

The rivals had earlier said an agreement would be found by the end of the week but party sources told AFP Sunday that a deal was still out of reach with closed-door negotiations between both men ongoing.

Söder and Laschet flew in on Sunday night to Berlin for talks, German media reported.

As head of the Christian Democratic Union, Merkel loyalist Laschet would normally be the obvious choice for the alliance’s chancellor candidate nomination.

But with support for the parties plumbing new lows amid anger over Germany’s pandemic management, the more popular Söder has put up a formidable challenge against Laschet.

Söder, who declared his bid for the job last Sunday, had then said he would step aside “without resentment” if larger party CDU was to decide for his rival Laschet.

READ ALSO: Merkel’s conservatives in disarray as scrum for Merkel’s job opens wounds

But even after the CDU’s leadership came out a day later in support for Laschet, Soeder refused to back down. Instead, the 54-year-old cited popularity ratings as he dug in his heels.

A recent poll by public broadcaster ARD showed 44 percent of Germans in favour of Söder as most qualified as the CDU-CSU’s chancellor candidate. Laschet only had 15 percent of support.

The infighting has thrown the conservatives into disarray as Merkel is about to bow out after 16 years in power.

It has also sapped energy at a time when Germany is struggling to put down a raging third wave of the coronavirus pandemic that has already claimed almost 80,000 lives in Europe’s biggest economy.

‘Backroom deal’

With no agreement in sight, conservatives up and down the country were calling emergency meetings to thrash out who to support.

The alliance’s youth organisation Junge Union on Sunday voted to back Söder, with 14 out of 18 of its chapters in favour of the Bavarian.

“Both candidates have had enough time to come to a decision. That didn’t happen, so we see ourselves forced to position ourselves,” said Junge Union chief Tilman Kuban.

Meanwhile, some MPs supporting Söder had been collecting signatures to force a vote of the CDU-CSU parliamentary group when they meet on Tuesday.

Party heavyweight Wolfgang Schäuble has hit out against Soeder for undermining the CDU leadership’s endorsement of Laschet as “only a backroom deal”.

The conservative alliance would struggle in the elections without a strong CDU, warned the former finance minister who is also currently speaker of the house.

READ MORE: What you need to know about the two men vying to replace Merkel as Chancellor

Yet others were starting to shift in favour of Söder.

The state premiers of Saarland and Saxony-Anhalt have both indirectly said that Söder should not be written off.

“It is completely clear that the question of with whom one will have the better chance at the elections must play a central role,” said Saarland’s leader Tobias Hans.

By Hui Min NEO

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POLITICS

Germany plans return to debt-limit rules in 2023

Germany will reinstate its so-called debt brake in 2023 after suspending it for three years to cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, sources in the finance ministry said Wednesday.

Germany plans return to debt-limit rules in 2023

The government will borrow 17.2 billion euros ($18.1 million) next year, adhering to the rule enshrined in the constitution that normally limits

Germany’s public deficit to 0.35 percent of overall annual economic output, despite new spending as a result of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the sources said.

The new borrowing set out in a draft budget to be presented to the cabinet on Friday is almost 10 billion euros higher than a previous figure for 2023 announced in April.

However, “despite a considerable increase in costs, the debt brake will be respected,” one of the sources said.

Although Germany is traditionally a frugal nation, the government broke its own debt rules at the start of the coronavirus pandemic and unleashed vast financial aid to steer the economy through the crisis.

READ ALSO: Debt-averse Germany to take on new borrowings to soften pandemic blow

The government has this year unveiled a multi-billion-euro support package to help companies in Europe’s biggest economy weather the fallout from the Ukraine war and sanctions against Russia.

Berlin has also spent billions to diversify its energy supply to reduce its dependence on Russia, as well as investing heavily in plans to tackle climate change and push digital technology.

But despite the additional spending, Finance Minister Christian Lindner has maintained the aim to reinstate the debt brake in 2023.

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