Merkel endorses Laschet as candidate in rare intervention in German election campaign

A government led by her conservative alliance with Armin Laschet as chancellor would be the "best path for our country", said Dr Angela Merkel.
A government led by her conservative alliance with Armin Laschet as chancellor would be the "best path for our country", said Dr Angela Merkel.PHOTO: REUTERS

BERLIN (BLOOMBERG) - Dr Angela Merkel endorsed Armin Laschet, her bloc's candidate to succeed her as chancellor, while taking a shot at his Social Democratic rival in an unusually direct intervention in the election campaign.

A government led by her conservative alliance with Mr Laschet as chancellor would be the "best path for our country", Dr Merkel said in a feisty speech in the Bundestag on Tuesday (Sept 7).

"His government would stand for stability, reliability and restraint," she said in her final official appearance in Parliament before the Sept 26 vote. "It matters who runs the country."

She criticised the fact that current front runner Olaf Scholz, from the Social Democratic Party (SDP), hasn't ruled out a coalition with the anti-capitalist Left party, and also attacked a recent comment from her vice-chancellor, who appeared to suggest that Covid-19 vaccinations are still experimental.

"No one getting vaccinated was a guinea pig," she said, alluding to a comment he made in a recent interview. "Neither me nor Olaf Scholz."

Less than three weeks before the election, the German leader led the debate that will also include the three main candidates seeking to replace her - Mr Scholz, Mr Laschet and the Green party's Ms Annalena Baerbock.

Mr Scholz, a distant third over most of the summer, has turned the contest around, vaulting into the front-runner role with the SDP topping the polls.

Mr Laschet has failed to reach voters and mounted a gaffe-prone campaign, while Ms Baerbock has been on the defensive over accusations of plagiarism.

Dr Merkel has sought to staunch the fallout, wading into the campaign on Sunday with a more full-throated endorsement of Mr Laschet, even as polls show Mr Scholz's momentum holding steady.