Merkel successor race widens as Soeder throws hat in the ring

By Ulrich Steinkohl, Joerg Blank and Christoph Trost, dpa

Both Bavaria’s state premier Markus Soeder and the Christian Democrats’ (CDU) leader Armin Laschet are willing to replace Chancellor Angela Merkel and lead the party into September elections, the two declared at party talks on Sunday.

Laschet and Soeder had a friendly exchange on Saturday, Soeder said. “We have both declared we are ready.”

Soeder said the race was about the success of the party overall and the best for the country, and if the CDU was ready to support him, he would step up. He also called for participation of the parliamentary faction in making that decision.

Previously, Soeder, who leads CDU’s regional sister party CSU, had remained coy about his ambitions, regularly insisting his political home remains in Bavaria.

Pressure is mounting in the CDU to name a candidate for parliamentary elections on September 26, in which Merkel will not stand at the helm of her party for the first time in 16 years.

“If I consider the broad sentiment in the CDU, the decision should come quite quickly,” Laschet told newspaper Bild am Sonntag on Sunday.

Other leading party figures also called for a swift decision. “We have a great interest in the affair going ahead quickly,” said CDU parliamentary faction leader Ralph Brinkhaus.

CDU members are increasingly nervous as the party’s support is shrinking in the polls. Some therefore seem to support Soeder as chancellor candidate, who has been a favourite of the public for the job, according to surveys.

It is unclear when exactly the decision will be taken. Soeder and Laschet had initially agreed to decide who would head into the elections in May at the latest.

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