Merkel and Söder proclaim subtle messages

Markus Söder at the CDU party conference

The CSU boss did not want to make an election recommendation for one of the three candidates.

(Photo: dpa)

Berlin The greeting from Markus Söder at the digital CDU party conference on Friday evening was eagerly awaited. Would the CSU boss particularly emphasize one of the three candidates for the CDU chairmanship who are standing for election on Saturday, and back him up?

The question was answered quickly: Söder’s speech lasted only eight minutes, and he avoided any suggestion that could be interpreted as partisanship for Armin Laschet, Friedrich Merz or Norbert Röttgen. If Söder supported someone at this performance, it was himself.

Behind him stood a flag with a large CSU logo and one with white and blue Bayern diamonds, as well as a bust of Franz Josef Strauss. Strauss was one of two CSU politicians who ran as the Union’s candidate for chancellor – and, like Edmund Stoiber later, lost.

But that goes with a sentence that Söder said at the end of his speech: “The higher the mountain, the more exciting it is to dare to climb.”

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In any case, the setting of the greeting can be seen as a demonstration of Bavarian self-confidence. In the latest polls, Söder has just been re-certified that a majority considers him to be significantly more suitable for chancellor than Laschet, Merz and Röttgen.

Merkel makes a covert recommendation

Only Chancellor Angela Merkel, who also gave a brief greeting on Friday evening, from the Chancellery with a much more subtle background than Söder, is more popular than Söder. But the Chancellor also sent subtle messages. Right at the beginning of her short speech, she said that “in all probability” it would be her last party congress as Chancellor.

In all likelihood? Presumably she was referring to the improbable possibility of another party congress rather than the hidden hint of another candidacy. Nevertheless, the statement was carefully registered in the currently nervous CDU.

Chancellor Angela Merkel at the CDU party conference

Merkel did not mention the previous party leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer in her speech.

(Photo: AFP)

And there was one more sentence from Merkel’s that made one sit up and take notice. “I would like to see a team elected that takes the fate of our proud People’s Party into its own hands and then works with all its members to find the right answers for the tasks of the future,” said the Chancellor. A team. That should be a coded recommendation for Armin Laschet, who competes in a team with Health Minister Jens Spahn. Merz and Röttgen fight for themselves.

Söder had recently praised Laschet with noticeable frequency. On Friday evening at the CDU party convention, however, he practiced demonstrative neutrality. “I know all three candidates and I think there are three very good, excellent candidates,” he said. “We will work very well together.”

According to Söder, he also did this with Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who said goodbye as the CDU chairwoman on Friday evening with a self-critical speech. Söder extensively praised the “dear Annegret” with whom he had reunited the divided union.

Such praise for the outgoing party leader is actually natural. It is all the more remarkable that Merkel did not mention the CDU leader in her speech. No thanks, no appreciation.

At the end of 2018, Merkel had been instrumental in ensuring that Kramp-Karrenbauer became the new CDU chairwoman, and not Merz. But the relationship now seems strained. It may be disappointing that her desired successor could not prevail in the party. Merkel is now apparently relying on Laschet.

More: The hour of the decision in the CDU: The last German people’s party is fighting for Merkel’s legacy


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