BERLIN — The new leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party pledged Tuesday to restore voters’ confidence after discontent over Germany’s pandemic management and a scandal over lawmakers enriching themselves in mask-procurement deals led to a sharp drop in its approval ratings.
Armin Laschet, the governor of Germany’s most populous state, won the leadership of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in January. He hopes to succeed Merkel as chancellor, but the center-right Union bloc dominated by the CDU hasn’t yet decided on its candidate for the September 26 national election, AP reported.
He hasn’t enjoyed a honeymoon. This month, the CDU suffered bad losses in two state elections, while national polls have shown the Union giving up gains it made on the strength of Merkel’s management of the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.
That hasn’t been helped by allegations that several lawmakers from the CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, profited from business deals last year as Germany scrambled to secure masks. Some of those lawmakers have left their parties.
“Mistakes in pandemic management and some personal wrongdoing, selfishness in our own ranks, have led to confidence in the reliability and the capability of the Union as a whole sinking,” Laschet said. “I say today: We will change that, we will do better. I will take personal responsibility for that.”
Laschet called for Germany and Europe to become “the pharmacy of the world,” shaking off dependence on China, and stressed the importance of “green hydrogen” in boosting renewable energies.
“I want our country to become climate-neutral not with bureaucracy, as our competitors advocate, but with innovation, with sustainable technologies and with the instruments of the market economy,” he said.
The Union is expected to decide between Easter and late May whether Laschet or the CSU leader, Bavarian governor Markus Soeder, will be the center-right candidate for chancellor.