World Merkel heir under fire as German parties meet
Crucial debate for Merkel party to turn race around
With a week to go until election day, Germany's top parties will face off in a televised debate on Sunday with the race to succeed Angela Merkel in a dead heat. The frontrunner by a hair, Finance Minister and Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz of the Social Democrats turned in solid if low-key performances in the previous two debates and came out on top in post-broadcast viewer surveys. Armin Laschet of Merkel's conservatives attempted unsuccessfully in both of the previous confrontations to claw back a poll lead he enjoyed until July when a series of gaffes sent his approval rating into free fall.
German conservative leader Armin Laschet is facing mounting unrest within his party, after their historic defeat in federal elections.
As he and the other party leaders met colleagues to decide their next steps, he has come under increased pressure to abandon attempts to form a coalition.
Election winner Olaf Scholz wants urgent talks with the two parties whose support he needs to form a government.
But the Greens and liberals plan to meet each other first.
Mr Scholz has been buoyed by opinion polls that suggest widespread backing for a three-way government.
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Half of Germans want his party to run the country with the Greens and pro-business FDP in what they call a "traffic-light" coalition, because of the party colours; only 22% think it should be Mr Laschet's conservatives at the helm of a "Jamaica" coalition.
Armin Laschet was picked by the conservatives to take over as chancellor after 16 years of Angela Merkel in power. Even before the vote there was frustration at gaffes in his campaign, as his poll numbers slipped over the summer.
But internal discontent at his poor showing in Sunday's election has now spilled out across his party and its sister party in Bavaria, after they polled only 24.1% of the vote:
- "We lost the election, full stop," says CDU youth wing leader Tilman Kuban
- Economics Minister Peter Altmaier says the party has no "God-given" right to form a coalition
- Bernd Althusmann, head of the CDU leader in Lower Saxony in the north-west says voters want change and "we should humbly and respectfully accept" their will
- Volker Bouffier, state premier in Hesse in central Germany, says the party has "no claim" to run the country now
- The party's economic wing in the south-west wants a rapid change in personnel and policies
- Local party member Ellen Demuth said: "You lost - be reasonable; prevent more damage to the CDU and step down."
One leading figure in its sister party in Bavaria, Finance Minister Albert Füracker, appeared to wash his hands of Mr Laschet, adamant that his Christian Social Union was not responsible for the national defeat.
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She was called "the leader of the free world" as authoritarian populists were on the march in Europe and the United States, but Angela Merkel is wrapping up a historic 16 years in power with an uncertain legacy at home and abroad. However, the last days of her tenure have also been marred by what Merkel called the "bitter, dramatic and terrible" return to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan -- a debacle in which she shares the blame as Germany completed its evacuation.
The Bavarian party is led by Markus Söder, who is a far more popular figure nationally that his conservative colleague.
The talk in Berlin on Tuesday was that conservative colleagues might even approach Mr Söder to front a coalition with the Greens and liberals.
The losing candidate is not without support, but it is dwindling.
Leading CDU figure Julia Klöckner is among the few who have publicly backed a CDU-led government: the party needs to renew itself but could still do it in government, she says.
The party's top official in Hamburg, Christoph Ploss, said the CDU should take soundings with its potential coalition partners: "We have to move forward step by step."
Two separate polls indicate widespread support for a government led by Olaf Scholz.
A Forsa poll said 56% wanted him to be chancellor, while a mere 11% preferred Mr Laschet and 67% thought he should resign.
Germany readies for election that will end Merkel era
Germany goes to the polls on Sunday in an election that will see Angela Merkel step down after 16 years in power, sparking a knife-edge race to lead Europe's biggest economy. Western allies are watching nervously, wary of an uncertain outcome and coalition negotiations that would blunt for weeks, if not months participation on the international scene by Europe's biggest power of 83 million people. For Merkel's centre-right CDU-CSU bloc, the stakes could hardly be higher.
As many as 71% are opposed to the conservative leader becoming chancellor, according to a Civey institute poll.
Meanwhile, the centre left is keen to force the pace with potential coalition partners.
"We have invited the Greens and the FDP to hold exploratory talks with us this week, if they want," said parliamentary group leader Rolf Mützenich.
They do not appear to be in a rush and as well as finding common ground, they need to sort out internal decisions.
Greens leader Annalena Baerbock herself did not have a great election, squandering a lead in the opinion polls, even if her party did reach a historic high of almost 15%.
Her co-leader, Robert Habeck, stepped back during the campaign but has his eye on Germany's top finance job, currently held by Olaf Scholz. But it's a job also coveted by the head of the pro-business FDP, Christian Lindner.
It's not just policies but jobs the two parties need to agree on if they're to take part in government.
Even though the liberals are also more naturally aligned on economics with the centre-right, they have plenty in common on the social side with the Greens.
Germany’s (sort of) change elections .
Olaf Scholz and the center-left defeated Angela Merkel’s party, but this election was a fight for the center.It would take quite a few more hours, but early Monday, German election officials released results for the parliamentary elections, putting the Social Democrats (SPD) ahead with 25.7 percent of the vote. They narrowly beat the conservatives Merkel had helmed for almost two decades, who won 24.1 percent.