German conservatives unveil Post-Merkel plan


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Berlin (AFP)

The German Conservatives will unveil a plan on Monday to win voters in a future without Angela Merkel, as Chancellor candidate Armin Laschet wants to extend his lead over the September election.

Merkel’s CDU boss Laschet and CSU boss Markus Soeder jointly present the alliance’s manifesto after months of destructive disputes.

A public dispute between the two over the candidacy for chancellor was one of several setbacks for the bloc in the run-up to the September 26 elections – the first election in 16 years without Merkel.

But the conservative alliance has gained momentum in the last few weeks, won a major regional election and is now around 28 percent ahead of the Greens in second place with around 21 percent.

Laschet and Soeder appeared together on Sunday in a public demonstration of unity before a final meeting to determine the details of their election program.

“Sure, there have been a few moments in the last few months when we argued, but now we’re on course together,” said Söder.

– Life after Merkel –

The CDU-CSU alliance, also known as the Union, has dominated German politics for 70 years, but is facing a fight to rename without Merkel, which is immensely popular despite many ups and downs.

“Merkel alone was the Union’s manifesto for a long time,” wrote the daily Bild newspaper recently, suggesting that Laschet had “rushed from meeting to meeting” in order to finalize a new strategy for the alliance.

Conservatives faltered as Merkel prepared to withdraw, provoking anger over the government’s pandemic management and a corruption scandal with seedy coronavirus mask deals.

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At the beginning of this year they lost their usual lead in the polls to the Greens for several weeks, which stormed after the nomination of their chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock.

But also a survey by the broadcaster RTL last week chose Laschet as Germany’s top pick to replace Merkel with 23 percent, ahead of Baerbock for the first time since both of them threw their hats into the ring.

Laschet has long been a close ally of Merkel and has pledged to continue the Chancellor’s moderate, centrist course.

According to a draft by the German media, the new manifesto should adhere to the economic principles of the conservative dogma – no tax increases and no new debt rule.

In the run-up to the meeting on Sunday, Laschet said that tax increases were “poison” for Europe’s largest economy and called for a “decade of modernization”.

– Climate Wars –

The manifesto also reportedly includes a plan to increase pension payments for those who work longer – a proposal that has met with heavy criticism from the left.

On foreign policy, it reportedly rejects Turkey’s EU membership and calls for a united front for Europe and the United States against China.

The conservatives’ climate program should be examined most closely, since the Greens are developing as the closest competitor after the vote, but also as a potential coalition partner.

After Baerbock had said that gasoline prices should rise, Laschet replied that the “energy transition must be socially acceptable”.

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Söder also attacked the Greens in an interview with Bild am Sonntag and accused them of having scored “one own goal after the other”.

“Instead of making guidelines for the center, they are becoming a party to flight bans, speed limits and tax increases,” he said.

Critics have already turned against the Conservatives for failing to take real action on the climate.

“Nobody has to change their life for the Union,” noted Die Zeit weekly.

“Anyone who reads the proposals on climate policy would not immediately recognize that it is a fight against a human catastrophe,” said Tagesspiegel.

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