The victory of North Rhine-Westphalia Minister-President Armin Laschet, 59, in the second round of CDU chairman elections during the party's COVID-encouraged online congress does not mean he will automatically become the Christian Democrats' Chancellor candidate in the fall. In this case, the situation remains quite tangled. So far, it is clear that out of the three contenders, the victory was clinched by the one most satisfied with the current head of the German government, Chancellor Angela Merkel. However, the outcome of the online voting involving over a thousand congress delegates will be officially approved on January 22 only, after they vote again, by mail. It is also known that the CDU's candidacy for German Chancellor will be "approved later".
In the meantime, data acquired over the weekend has once again shown that Merkel remains the most influential and authoritative politician in the country, which is perhaps Russia's pivotal partner in Europe. Considered an associate of Angela Merkel, Armin Laschet replaced Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer as CDU leader. She was Merkel's protégé with a view to replacing her as Chancellor, but her further career went awry due to the lack of authority among her regional party members. As a result, February 2020 saw her announce that she would no longer run CDU chairman. And Merkel, as the head of government, retained Kramp-Karrenbauer as Defense Minister, which she exploits to demand "talking to Russia from a position of strength".
The coming months will show whether Armin Laschet can prove himself on a nationwide scale as a politician worthy of succeeding Chancellor Angela Merkel. At the same time, he urges to follow up with Merkel's policy, stipulating that "much needs to be done in a new, different way." However, Laschet cannot speak otherwise, as the ordinary members of the CDU have long been pressing for change. Tellingly, due to the declining popularity of the so-called "people's parties" with the country's population, similar demands have long been heard among both the SPD and the Social Democrats. Despite having lost the second round of voting to Armin Laschet, former head of the CDU/CSU faction Friedrich Merz, 65, considered Merkel's fierce opponent whom she has long ago cunningly removed from all the party and public positions, clearly wants to use his decidedly last chance to make it into the Chancellor chair.
It is no coincidence that right after summing up the results of the online voting, he urged the congress delegates to lend the maximum available support to the new CDU chairman Armin Laschet, referring to national interests and CDU unity. Moreover, Merz offered himself to the party leadership as the Minister of Economy of the Federal Republic of Germany. And the truth is that his competence is nearly incontrovertible in the German elites. Proposals have already been made that by September 26, when the Bundestag will have to choose the new chancellor, the CDU come with Armin Laschet as the party chairman and Friedrich Merz as their candidate.
To Russia, Chancellor Laschet, who supports the completion of Nord Stream 2, is certainly more preferable than Chancellor Merz, who proposes to freeze the project and extend sanctions against Russia. Besides, the latter is clearly more enthusiastic about America than the former. However, an assessment to this effect is relative enough, because restoring transatlantic unity after the destructive period of Donald Trump's rule has already been designated as the German government's major purpose. As for relations with Russia, improvements are not expected under any chancellor, because the Russian Federation is not going to shift its ground on the Crimea or cease supporting the DPR and LPR, just to name a few.
By the way, regarding Germany's internal policy, Friedrich Merz, in contradiction to CDU bosses, does not rule out cooperation with the country's largest opposition party "Alternative for Germany" (AfG), which offers him hope for the endorsement with his regional colleagues, especially in East Germany. It is important not to lose sight of the fact that apart from to the Bundestag, the AfG is already represented in all of Germany's Landtags.
Provided that Armin Laschet refuses to compete for German Chancellor for some reason, there is a chance that the CDU bosses will nominate the 40-year-old Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn as their candidate. Polls demonstrate a significant increase in his popularity during the fight against Covid-19. Prime Minister of Bavaria and chairman of the CSU Markus Sӧder is still staying in the sidelines as contender for the post of German Chancellor. He keeps saying that his focus of interests is still limited to Bavaria alone, but given his authority with the CDU members, local observers do not exclude that Sӧder may make a dramatic difference in the nick of time.
One can't help anticipating the following "surprise" either: Angela Merkel will appear flexible with her party colleagues requests' and run for German Chancellor again. A new CDU chairman and the "old" but time-tested Chancellor are also good enough in the troubles of life...