Germany’s Laschet shows readiness to quit as CDU chief

The troubled chief of Angela Merkel’s CDU party had signalled on Thursday that he was ready to step down as leader of the conservatives, after an election fiasco.

Armin Laschet has been under massive pressure to quit after he headed the conservatives to its worst election result since World War II, coming in following the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD).

A day after the kingmaker parties; Greens and the liberal FDP decided for a coalition with the Social Democrats, placing SPD Finance Minister Olaf Scholz a step closer to the chancellery, The 60-year-old said the leadership of his conservative party needed an overhaul; including his job.

“We will quickly tackle the personnel question of the CDU — from the chairperson through the party’s leadership to the federal executive committee,” he said to journalists, mentioning that he shall propose a date for a party congress to resolve these problems.

However, he insisted that a coalition led by his Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Bavarian sister party CSU could still be an applicable option if ongoing talks happening by rivals SPD were unsuccessful.

After the initial exploratory talks on Thursday, nevertheless, the SPD, Greens, and FDP said they will urge for another round from Monday.

“I sensed from the talks that we can achieve something together,” said SPD general secretary Lars Klingbeil. For Laschet’s Bavarian ally, CSU chief Markus Soeder, it was high time for the conservatives to move on. The CDU-CSU alliance must now be ready for a term in opposition after 16 years in power led by Merkel, he said.

“This will change our country,” Soeder had stated on Wednesday.

Merkel, who has continued as caretaker chancellor herself during the coalition negotiating procedures, also signalled that she expected ongoing talks that leave her conservatives out, to go steadily. 

The process “will definitely be faster than during the last government formation, I’m sure of it,” said Merkel while being on a visit in Rome.

Armin Laschet, who is state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, the most populated region of Germany was elected head of the CDU in January.

Although being less popular than Soeder, he managed to beat the Bavarian leader to be the bloc’s chancellor candidate.

For a short while, Laschet was clearly the favourite to succeed Merkel, who is bowing out of politics after 16 years of her power. 

However, his party’s ratings started to deescalate following a series of mistakes made by him, including being caught on camera while laughing in the background on a dignified tribute to flood victims.

Desperate to reverse the trend of events, the conservatives made use of their best asset; Merkel. Even though the chancellor made efforts to accompany Laschet around the country on the last week of election campaigning, he was unsuccessful in pulling off a win on the day of polling.

Official results of the election showed former CDU voters leaving the party in large numbers, majorly in favour of the SPD and the Greens. Though the party lost ground to the far-right AfD in former East Germany too.

Laschet announced that his party shall hold a meeting in the east to figure out how to win back voters from the AfD.

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