Merkel is once again wooing voters to back Laschet’s faltering campaign


Newsletter: Europe Express

As Armin Laschet made his way to Stralsund Town Hall to deliver one of his final speeches from this year’s Bundestag election campaign, a huge cry rose from the crowd. But the cheers were for the woman by his side.

“We want to see the mummy! A group of young men chanted, as the Black Eyed Peas hit “I Gotta Feeling” echoed through the plaza. “Ohhhh Angela Merkel! Ohhhh! ”They continued.

Just four days before the German election, the country’s longtime chancellor had come to Stralsund, the city she has represented in parliament for 31 years, to sprinkle stardust on Laschet’s faltering attempt to succeed her.

Europe’s first stateswoman may be leaving politics after 16 years in office, but she continues to enjoy a very high approval rating. And the hope in the camp of the Christian Democrats is that some of his popularity could still rub off on their candidate Laschet and stop the fall in their party’s fortunes.

Polls suggest the CDU and its Bavarian partner CSU have the support of 22% of voters, with popular Finance Minister Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats at 25% and the Greens at 17%. If the numbers turn out to be correct, the CDU / CSU could face its worst result in a national election.

Experts said the key to Scholz’s popularity has been his success in positioning himself as Merkel’s natural heir – a calm, pragmatic and very experienced politician whom voters can trust.

Merkel’s role in Stralsund was to present Laschet, not Scholz, as her true successor. She urged the crowd to “contribute to the prosperity of Germany.” . . and safeguard its security ”by voting CDU / CSU. She said Laschet had fought fiercely for jobs in North Rhine-Westphalia, the state he rules, “and I’m sure he will do it nationally as well, as chancellor.”

Armin Laschet was filmed laughing as the German President paid tribute to flood victims © Marius Becker / AFP via Getty Images

Still, the crowd didn’t seem convinced. “Laschet seems like a nice, likable guy, but chancellor?” No, ”said Birgit Labude, a local woman. “He has no charisma.

Merkel’s appearance in this historic Baltic port was a rare event. Since stepping down as CDU leader in 2018, she has generally stayed away from party politics.

But the disastrous drop in CDU / CSU poll results – they have almost halved in the past 15 months – forced her to act. “When the house is on fire, the boss has to do something,” said Andrea Römmele, professor of political communication at the Hertie School in Berlin.

Römmele said the goal was to mobilize CDU / CSU voters whose personal dislike for Laschet left them apathetic and demotivated.

“What the CDU / CSU must avoid is a situation where their voters say ‘I don’t like Laschet, of course I don’t want anyone else. [to be chancellor], but I think I’ll stay home on election day, ”she said. “This is the great danger for the CDU / CSU.

Speaking in Stralsund, Laschet reiterated his warning that the Social Democrats would form a coalition with the Greens and the far left party Linke, which wants to dissolve NATO.

It was, he said, “completely wrong” to raise taxes, as proposed by the SPD, when Germany needed more jobs and investment. The CDU / CSU, he said, “would guarantee the internal and external security of the country. . . It’s impossible with Red-Red-Green ”.

But some watching Laschet were thinking of the July incident when he was caught laughing in front of a camera as President Frank-Walter Steinmeier paid homage to the victims of catastrophic floods a few yards away. “It was totally inappropriate,” said Burkhard Verch, a roofer listening to speeches at town hall. “That’s one of the reasons he’s not taken seriously here.

Some of Laschet’s internal critics said the incident had been exaggerated. But they still have serious doubts about the lack of new ideas and Laschet’s passive campaign.

“He campaigned like Merkel used to do – tiptoe around all the big issues, tackling nothing head-on, avoiding any strong political proposals,” said a top lawmaker in the CDU. “Merkel was able to do it because she always had a very high personal approval rating. Laschet does not.

Some in the crowd said the party had also been damaged by the protracted conflict between Laschet and Markus Söder, the Prime Minister of Bavaria, over who should run for the CDU / CSU candidate.

“They should have solved this internally, like all other parties – instead, it was in the public eye,” said Marine Schwerin, accountant. “It really damaged the CDU / CSU. You felt like you couldn’t count on them anymore.

In a sign of what Laschet faces this Sunday, Schwerin said his loyalty to the outgoing Chancellor outweighed his allegiance to the Christian Democrats.

“I don’t identify with the party as closely as I did in 2017,” she said. “When Merkel was running.”

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