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Angela Merkel nightmare: Scramble to find successor exposes cracks in party – dire poll

Angela Merkel: German citizen slams COVID-19 rule 'chaos'

A total of 31 of the 46 members of the Christian Democratic Union’s (CDU) executive body backed Mr Laschet in a secret vote. He beat the main rival Markus Soder, the Prime Minister of Bavaria, who received just nine votes, according to the CDU. With Mrs Merkel set to step down after 16 years as Germany’s leader, the result puts Mr Laschet in pole position to become the centre-right’s candidate for Chancellor in September’s national election.

However, the ballot has revealed that there are significant questions over whether he is fit to run for high office.

The CDU’s executive last week gave its unanimous backing to Mr Laschet – who secured 77.5 percent of the vote, with 22.5 percent going to Mr Soder.

Mr Laschet was elected the party’s leader in January but has struggled in the opinion polls with many in the CDU/CSU political bloc believing they had a better chance of electoral success with Mr Soder at the helm.

Approval ratings for the CDU have slumped recently amid growing public anger over Germany’s sluggish start to its mass vaccination campaign.

Angela Merkel Markus Soder and Armin Laschet

Ballot to find Angela Merkel's heir reveals bitter divisions in her CDU/CSU political bloc (Image: GETTY)

Markus Soder

Markus Soder is prime minister of Bavaria and a prominent CSU member (Image: GETTY)

Last year, support for the party soared to almost 40 percent as voters back its handling of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

But the latest survey, by pollsters Kantar, puts the CDU/CSU bloc on just 29 percent of the vote.

This has led to some experts even claiming that the Greens could even secure the chancellery in the upcoming election.

The opposition party has chosen 40-year-old MP Annalena Baerbock as its candidate for the top job.

Armin Laschet

Armin Laschet has been backed as the most likely centre-right candidate for chancellor (Image: GETTY)

Voters appear to have stark differences in opinions between Mr Laschet, a former newspaper editor, and Mr Soder, who has earned a reputation as a decisive crisis manager.

In separate polling carried out by INSA, 38 percent of German voters said they would back the CDU/CSU bloc with Mr Soder at the helm.

In contrast, just 27 would back the parties with Mr Laschet as its candidate for Chancellor.

Top members from the governing political bloc have also been split in their opinions on who should lead them into the next election.

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Angela Merkel timeline

A timeline of Angela Merkel's political career (Image: EXPRESS)

Mr Laschet has secured the backing of some of the CDU’s most influential grandees, including Wolfgang Schauble, a former finance minister and Bundestag president.

But other members of the party’s executive, such as Peter Altmaier, a close ally of Mrs Merkel and the country’s economy minister, have publicly backed Mr Soder.

And the premiers of Saxony-Anhalt and Saarland have also broken ranks with Mr Laschet to throw their weight behind Mr Soder, saying he’s more popular with rank-and-file members.

The CDU’s powerful youth wing, the Jungle Union, has also endorsed the Bavarian premier.

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Many of the party’s MPs fear they’ll lose seats in the September election if Mr Laschet is allowed to lead the campaign.

Mr Soder has said he’ll accept a clear vote by the CDU to endorse Mr Laschet as its probable candidate for Chancellor.

The Bavarian leader this week tabled the party a leadership proposal, saying: “But only the CDU can decide if it wants to accept this offer.”

After the CDU/CSU meeting to decide on leadership, Mr Soder said: “We as the CSU and I respect every decision.”

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