BERLIN, April 11 (Reuters) – The two contenders vying for chancellor in Germany’s ruling conservative coalition in September elections will meet leading members of parliament on Sunday as pressure grows for decisions on who should run.
Armin Laschet, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) leader, fell behind Markus Soeder, chairman of her Bavarian twin party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), in opinion polls but enjoys the support of some of the country’s powerful prime ministers.
Usually the leaders of the two parties, who make up the parliamentary bloc, decide who will run, but several lawmakers are demanding to vote this time.
The outcome of Sunday’s talks, which are also expected to cover other issues, is unclear. Although participants can decide who will run for themselves, they can also agree on a process or schedule for selecting candidates.
Laschet, 60, a centrist widely seen as a candidate for Merkel’s continuity but who has clashed with him over coronavirus restrictions, has made it clear he wants a candidacy.
Soeder, 54, an astute political operator who has sided with Merkel during the pandemic, has not officially said he wants the role, saying his place is in Bavaria. No CSU leader has ever been chancellor of Germany.
Many conservatives are nervous about competing in the September 26 election without Merkel, which has led them to four wins. He has ruled out running for a fifth term and has not said which of the two candidates he wants.
The conservative bloc has slumped to around 27% in polls, partly due to increasingly chaotic management of the pandemic. In the 2017 election, he won nearly 33%.
Laschet and Soeder said a decision would be reached by the end of May, but many conservatives wanted to end the uncertainty before that.
Volker Bouffier, Hessen state premier, called for a decision next week, while Ralph Brinkhaus, chairman of the parliamentary party, gave them two weeks.
“I attach great importance to this happening immediately. There is no deadlock until Pentecost, “Brinkhaus told the Funke media group.
Finance Minister Olaf Scholz has been nominated as chancellor by the Social Democrats, while the Greens plan to announce their candidate on April 19.
Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Edited by Mike Harrison