Merkel's new heir promises continuity, faces new scrutiny
The race to lead Germany's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) came down to a conservative, a modernizer and a continuity candidate.
What happened: The party of Angela Merkel opted for continuity on Sunday, picking North Rhine-Westphalia Governor Armin Laschet, a centrist Merkel ally. With Merkel set to step down later this year after 16 years in power, Laschet is now the frontrunner to lead the German center-right into September's elections.
Like Merkel, Laschet is seen as a champion of German industry who backs close economic ties with China and Russia, but "the tide is turning" on those issues, says Sudha David-Wilp of the German Marshall Fund.
- Laschet has come under scrutiny for his positions on allowing Huawei into Germany's 5G networks and maintaining good relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
- "We have to look at what he said in the past as a reflection of his role as the governor of a state with lots of business interests with China and Russia, but now he’s in a new role," she says.
- "He'll still have to support German business, but voters in Germany are starting to see Russia and China in a new light."
The state of play: The CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the CSU, will pick a joint chancellor candidate this spring.
- As CDU leader Laschet would be the traditional pick, but there could still be a twist if he's seen as "a drag on the party" in upcoming regional elections, David-Wilp says.
- “The CDU is very pragmatic and shrewd and they’re going to go with a winner."
- Laschet would bring a stylistic change from Merkel, David-Wilp says, in that he's a "real retail politician" unlike the reserved Merkel.
What to watch: David-Wilp says Germans aren't fully prepared for the "political earthquake" coming later this year.
- “There’s a Generation Merkel here in Germany, and I think it will be difficult once she exits the stage.”