Health Minister and former leadership candidate Jens Spahn has announced he will support Angela Merkel’s ally Armin Laschet to become the next CDU leader instead of running for leadership himself. The move will threaten the leadership ambitions of one of the German leader’s political foes, Friedrich Merz, and likely mean Mrs Merkel will continue as Chancellor until 2021.
Mrs Merkel had faced calls to surrender her 15-year leadership as Chancellor early following the sensational resignation of Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer as Christian Democrat Union (CDU) party leader.
But in a joint press conference Mr Spahn and Mr Laschet said they would not put pressure on Mrs Merkel to leave early.
Mr Spahn said: “Our candidacy is not directed at Angela Merkel.
“It’s not about a break, and it wouldn’t succeed anyway.
“It’s about learning to walk after 15 years of Angela Merkel’s chancellorship.
“We, as the CDU, are in the biggest crisis of our history, a crisis of trust, solidarity and confidence.
“Armin Laschet and I sometimes had our differences in the past, but that’s what it’s about in a people’s party: building bridges between different positions and different generations.”
Mr Laschet, the chief minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, added: “We can and we must bring our party and our country together again.
“That’s why I want to run as leader of the CDU.”
It comes after experts warned the possibility of having Mr Merz as party leader while Mrs Merkel remained Chancellor would be unworkable and force her to surrender early.
Mr Spahn added: “We both have a great deal of respect for Friedrich Merz.
“But what we need right now is solidarity and unity in the party and that’s why I have decided to support Armin Laschet.”
The CDU has quickly embarked on choosing a new leader and chancellor candidate for the next federal election due by October 2021.
On Monday, the CDU announced it would bring forward a congress on April 25 to pick a new leader who they want to succeed Mrs Merkel after the party suffered its worst result in a state vote in Hamburg on Sunday.
As the party scramble to resolve a crisis shaking the party’s hold on power, Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer said of the April 25 meeting: “A new party chairman or chairwoman will be elected at this party congress.
“This is a clear signal for the CDU candidate for chancellor.”
Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer stressed the party’s top brass expected the winner of the leadership contest to work alongside Mrs Merkel.
She said: “Everyone assumes that there will be good cooperation with both the Bundestag parliamentary group and the CDU-led federal government – and this is certainly a question and a requirement that all candidates will have to meet.”
Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer’s decision to give up her ambition of succeeding Mrs Merkel came after an eastern branch of the CDU defied the national party and voted with the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) to install a state premier from a third party.
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