German conservatives on Monday pledged no tax increases, pragmatic action on climate change and a tough stance on Russia and China as they unveiled their plan to win voters in the September election in the absence of their veteran leader Angela Merkel.
Armin Laschet, head of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), and Markus Soeder, head of the smaller Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), pledged “stability and renewal” as they launched their manifesto in Berlin ahead of the September 26 vote – the first in 16 years not to feature Merkel.
Laschet – the Conservatives’ choice to succeed Merkel as chancellor – called for a “modernization campaign for Germany”, promising to combine “coherent climate protection with economic strength and social security”.
The two appeared together in a show of unity after months of damaging internal wrangling over who would be the chancellor candidate – one of many setbacks for the bloc in recent months as it looks to an era post-Merkel.
But the alliance has gained momentum since Laschet’s appointment to the top position, winning a landslide victory in a key regional election and now polling around 28%, ahead of the Greens in second place with around 21% .
Soeder admitted on Monday that he had faced some “disappointments” but said he had “no resentment” towards Laschet. “We clarified everything and discussed everything together,” he said.
– Life after Merkel –
The CDU-CSU alliance, also known as the Union, has dominated German politics for much of the past 70 years, but struggles to rename itself without Merkel, who, despite many ups and downs, remains immensely popular.
“For a long time, Merkel alone was the manifesto of the Union,” the daily Bild wrote recently, suggesting that Laschet “rushed from meeting to meeting” in a rush to finalize a new strategy for the alliance.
In final talks ahead of the manifesto’s launch on Monday morning, Merkel stressed that global politics was entering a “new era,” sources close to the talks told AFP.
Tories have faltered as Merkel prepares to bow out, suffering anger over the government’s handling of the pandemic and a corruption scandal involving shady coronavirus mask contracts.
# photo1 For several weeks earlier this year, they lost their traditional lead in the polls to the Greens, who jumped on the nomination of their young candidate for Chancellor Annalena Baerbock, 40.
But a poll for broadcaster RTL last week had Laschet as Germany’s first choice to replace Merkel by 23%, ahead of Baerbock for the first time since they both threw their hats in the ring.
Laschet has long been a close ally of Merkel and has pledged to continue the Chancellor’s moderate centrist course.
The new manifesto adheres to the economic underpinnings of conservative dogma – no tax hikes even though the pandemic has left a big hole in the country’s budget.
Any tax hike would be an “obstacle to the necessary recovery of our economy,” argued the Conservatives.
– Climate wars –
On foreign policy, he rejects Turkey’s EU membership and calls for a united front of Europe and the United States against China, which he describes as “the greatest foreign policy challenge. and security of our time ”.
But it is the Tories’ climate agenda that could come under the most scrutiny at home, as the Greens are not only shaping themselves as their closest competitor, but also a potential coalition partner after the vote.
The manifesto promises to “combine sustainable growth, climate protection and social security” to achieve Germany’s climate neutrality goal by 2045, but it also stresses that this must be done without “new burdens for businesses “.
# photo2Criticizing the Tories’ plan as “lacking in courage” Baerbock said the alliance only wanted “to do as before”.
She accused the alliance of not having proposed any real reform project to achieve climate neutrality and of betting on emissions trading to achieve a greener future.
“Therefore, this is all very unfair and anti-social,” she said.
© 2021 AFP