CDU leader election: Europe's take on the candidates

Germany's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is to elect its new leader on Saturday. Europe's press stresses the significance of the decision beyond party politics and Germany's borders. Commentators are doubtful that any of the three candidates has what it takes to succeed not just current CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, but also Angela Merkel as the new chancellor.

Open/close all quotes
The Economist (GB) /

Laschet has the best chances

The prime minister of North Rhine-Westphalia has the edge in the race to succeed Merkel, The Economist believes:

“Mr Laschet's backers praise his ability to build bridges and meld opposing points of view, while rivals acknowledge his skill in working across party lines. His jocular, modest Rhenish bearing contrasts with the silky erudition of Mr Röttgen or the flinty arrogance of Mr Merz. If it is hard to spot any fundamental beliefs in Mr Laschet beyond a staunchly Catholic pro-life attitude, that may be no great sin. After all, Mrs Merkel has run Germany successfully for 15 years and no one is quite sure what she stands for either.”

Krytyka Polityczna (PL) /

Merz is a relic of the past

Krytyka Polityczna is not convinced by the favourite:

“Merz himself loves to talk about reforming the CDU. But his candidacy symbolises a return to the past. Not just in terms of content, but more in terms of political style. Merkel's strategy was all about following social moods, resolving conflicts and co-opting the ideas of the competition. ... Merz does the opposite. He actively looks for disputes so that he can present himself as a fearless and uncompromising warrior with short and simple answers to every challenge. ... This revival of German political machismo not only harks back to the pre-Merkel era but also to the Bonn Republic.”

Diena (LV) /

Deciding on Europe's new leader

Diena underlines what exactly is at stake here:

“The question of which of the candidates will become chairman of the CDU is important not just for the party itself and not just for Germany either. After Brexit and in view of French President Emmanuel Macron chaotic foreign policy, Berlin's influence in the EU has grown considerably. So, in effect, it is the new leader of the united Europe who will be elected on Saturday. The Covid-19 pandemic, domestic political peripeties and other factors have shaken the symbols of liberal democracy in the US and the UK. And the prospects for the future are not particularly rosy either. For these reasons, Germany now symbolises the main torchbearer of liberal democracy on the global stage.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

The more important race won't be decided yet

None of the three contenders for the CDU leadership would make a good candidate for German chancellor, says Corriere della Sera's Berlin correspondent Paolo Valentino:

“All three have major shortcomings and rather low popularity ratings. For different reasons: Merz, because he's too conservative, hardly a champion of women and minorities, irascible, and hated by the Greens, who are a likely coalition partner. Laschet, because he lacks charisma and has come under criticism for his management of the pandemic in North Rhine-Westphalia. And Röttgen, because he is too technocratic and mysteriously appeared out of nowhere. The Bavarian state premier and CSU leader Markus Söder or the young Health Minister Jens Spahn are much more popular with voters as potential candidates for chancellor.”