Germany's Soeder opens bid to succeed Merkel as chancellor

Bavarian leader Markus Soeder told participants he is ready to run if the CDU backs him.
Bavarian leader Markus Soeder told participants he is ready to run if the CDU backs him.PHOTO: AFP

BERLIN (BLOOMBERG) - Bavarian leader Markus Soeder, whose party is part of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's governing coalition, said he is ready to enter the race to succeed her, a person familiar with the discussions said, setting up a potential fight for the nomination.

Mr Soeder made his offer during a party meeting on Sunday (April 11) that included Mr Armin Laschet, a member of Dr Merkel's Christian Democratic Union who has declared his bid for the chancellorship.

Dr Merkel, 66, has said she is not running for another term, opening the field for a new chancellor at the helm of Europe's biggest economy after a national election in September.

While the CDU and Mr Soeder's Christian Social Union traditionally field a joint candidate, Mr Soeder's de-facto entry into the race adds an element of competition between the two parties.

While polls suggest that Bavarian state premier Soeder, 54, is the more popular candidate than Mr Laschet, both candidates from his socially conservative region who ran for chancellor in the past were defeated.

Mr Soeder told participants he is ready to run if the CDU, the bigger of the two parties, backs him, according to the person, who asked not to be named discussing the closed-door talks. If the CDU decided against it, there would be no grudges, he added.

Face off

Mr Laschet, the state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, described Mr Soeder as a potential candidate and said the matter would be solved with mutual respect, according to the person.

Mr Soeder's move throws the ball into the court of the CDU, where some politicians are known to favour him over Mr Laschet.

Mr Laschet called for a quick decision in an interview with Bild am Sonntag, though he said none was expected at Sunday's meeting of the CDU-CSU joint parliamentary caucus.

While Germany's chancellor is chosen by the lower house of parliament after elections, Mr Soeder would take a winning 39 per cent in a direct matchup with Green party leader Annalena Baerbock and Social Democratic candidate Olaf Scholz, Germany's finance minister, according to a Forsa poll.

By contrast, Laschet would take 16 per cent, finishing behind the other two.