Laschet reboots German election campaign amid slide in polls

CDU leader pushes team-based strategy as senior allies express doubts about candidacy

CDU’s chancellor candidate Armin Laschet: wants to reshape Germany as a “climate-neutral industrial country” that balances green goals without undermining business. Photograph: Michael Kappeler

CDU’s chancellor candidate Armin Laschet: wants to reshape Germany as a “climate-neutral industrial country” that balances green goals without undermining business. Photograph: Michael Kappeler

 

Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leader Armin Laschet presented a new, team-based election campaign on Monday in response to a continued slide in polls.

Mr Laschet is hoping to be Germany’s next chancellor after the September 26th federal election when chancellor Angela Merkel ends her fourth and final term. With less than a month to go, however, Mr Laschet was forced to reboot his campaign after senior allies went public with their doubts about his candidacy.

“I am not the CEO of the CDU, we are a team and presenting this team, with all its diverse [political] roots was my political goal from the start,” said Mr Laschet on Monday.

At the party headquarters in Berlin, in a taste of the new approach, he presented a strategy paper and expert team to streamline Germany’s planning, operation and taxation of solar and wind energy facilities.

The purpose of the paper is twofold: to demonstrate to voters the party’s coalition compatibility with the Greens, and to convince voters of its own climate credentials. The CDU priority, Mr Laschet said, is to reshape Germany as a “climate-neutral industrial country” that balances green goals without undermining business.

Kabul evacuation

Other priorities flagged on Monday, for presentation in weeks ahead, include proposals to ease the tax burden on families and family-run businesses. In addition, Mr Laschet is calling for national and European security councils to co-ordinate military deployments better and avoid a repeat of the chaotic evacuation efforts from Kabul.

The new CDU plan comes after a poll on Monday saw the party slide to a historic low of 20 per cent, five points behind the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD). On Sunday evening, the first in a series of television debates ended with most viewers (36 per cent) backing the SPD candidate, Olaf Scholz. Just a quarter were more impressed with Mr Laschet, who finished in third and last place.

At a closed-door meeting on Monday, senior CDU figures demanded the campaign pivot away from Mr Laschet in response to the party’s 14-point slide in six monthsaccording to the Insa poll for Bild. With the SPD five points ahead and rising, a weekend Insa poll laid bare the challenge the CDU faces in the weeks ahead.

It is the party of choice only with top earners, attracted by its promise to cut their tax burden. In all other categories – age groups, male and female voters, eastern and western voters, and those on lower incomes – the SPD is ahead. 

Media blitz

The CDU is haemorrhaging voters in all directions: one in two former Merkel voters is shifting to the SPD while an equal number are drifting away to the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Greens.

Mr Laschet’s struggling campaign has prompted an unprecedented media blitz by Bavarian leader Markus Söder, head of the CDU’s political ally, the Christian Social Union (CSU) and his rival in the race to head the campaign.

Mr Söder admits now that the CDU/CSU hopes of a “30 plus x” result is now unlikely.

“We’re going to have to lower our ambition,” he said. “We have to concentrate on our core topics . . . the CDU/CSU has to become the party of tax cuts and bureaucracy fighting.”

Sunday evening’s debate was the first three-way encounter between Mr Laschet, Mr Scholz and Annalena Baerbock of the Greens. She finished in second place with 30 per cent of viewers impressed by her performance. She argued that three terms of CDU/SPD grand coalition politics had left Germany with failing schools and a foreign policy that “ducked out of sight” at critical moments, such as in Afghanistan.

The Green and SPD leaders were largely in agreement on tax policy, with greater burdens likely for top earners to pay for Covid-19 borrowing.

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