In Germany, Armin Laschet’s big gap to counter the Greens and the far right

Armin Laschet is not for much in the victory of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Sunday, June 6, in Saxony-Anhalt. Apart from a brief trip to Dessau to support the outgoing Minister-President, Reiner Haseloff, the Conservative candidate (CDU-CSU) for the chancellery was discreet during the campaign.

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The opposite would have been surprising. In January, it was not him but his opponent, Friedrich Merz, that the CDU of Saxony-Anhalt wanted to see become party chairman. In April, it was not him either, but the Bavarian Markus Söder (CSU) that the CDU officials in this Land in eastern Germany wanted as a candidate for the chancellery.

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Friedrich Merz and Markus Söder. Two men with a strong grip and sharp words, appreciated by their right wing and both having had complicated relationships with Angela Merkel, whose reception policy they notably criticized during the refugee crisis in 2015. Obviously , their profiles were better suited to the political culture of the CDU of the “new Länder” than that of Rhenish Armin Laschet, with a curvaceous style, less assertive authority and who has always defended the centrist and moderate line of the Chancellor.

“Regional factors”

In this context, a setback by the CDU in Saxony-Anhalt after its defeats in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate in March, would have cost Armin Laschet dearly. Three and a half months before the legislative elections of September 26, the question of his candidacy for the chancellery would undoubtedly have arisen.

It is no longer relevant. “The momentum enjoyed by the CDU in the home stretch of the campaign is clearly linked to regional factors. But that doesn’t matter to Laschet. The result cuts the grass under the feet of its rivals. And, for him, the effect should not be underestimated ”, analyzes Thorsten Faas, professor of political sociology at the Free University of Berlin.

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If Sunday’s ballot showed that the CDU could win in a region where its president is unpopular, the latter’s route to the chancellery is not miraculously cleared. In Saxony-Anhalt, two factors explain the high score of the CDU: the popularity of the outgoing Minister-President and the fear of a victory for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which allowed the conservatives to mobilize voters.

In the legislature, the situation will be very different. This time, Armin Laschet will not be able to take advantage of another’s popularity since he will be the candidate. And, nationally, it is the Greens, credited with 21% to 24%, and not the AfD, which ranges from 9% to 12%, who are the main opponents of the CDU-CSU.

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