German virus cases top 2 million as Merkel urges tougher shutdown

16 Janvier, 2021, 01:38 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Merkel Holds Meeting With States Leaders Over Further Lockdown Measures

"There were no smartphones back then, Nokia was leading the cellphone market, social networks and [social] media were a marginal phenomenon", the chancellor said of her first year in office.

The CDU will elect a new leader on Saturday in a key vote that could define what the party will look like in a post-Merkel era.

Three men are vying for the job: North Rhine-Westphalia state premier Armin Laschet, old Merkel rival Merz and foreign affairs expert Norbert Roettgen.

Merz has campaigned on a promise to shift the party to the right, writing in a column for the Der Spiegel weekly that a "happy "carry on like this" is just as inappropriate as the vague claim to occupy the centre at all times". Her legacy must be preserved and combined with new ideas, he said.

By comparison, Roettgen and Merz both polled 29 percent, while Laschet sat at 28.

Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, the candidate for chancellor of the struggling center-left Social Democrats, now Merkel's junior coalition partner, was second with 45 percent.

"Anyone who thinks they can win a general election by breaking with Angela Merkel is out of their mind", Markus Söder, the Bavarian regional leader, said.

She had already given up the party's chairman job in 2018 but her preferred successor Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer was forced to also step down over her handling of a regional election scandal.

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Soeder has signalled his support for Laschet, but may take on the role of conservative candidate to succeed Merkel if the victor of Saturday's CDU vote flops.

Merkel's cautious style of consensus politics has granted her lasting popularity in a wealthy, ageing nation that tends to favour continuity over change.

Yet the CDU may be about to break with her all the same.

Current Health Minister Jens Spahn, himself a member of Merkel's CDU, got 32 percent and is seen by many within the party as a possible candidate for chancellor himself.

But Merkel's popularity has soared again thanks to her handling of the coronavirus pandemic, making it increasingly hard for Germans to imagine political life without her.

In an opening statement, Merkel said that since she was first elected chancellor in 2005 the world had "changed dramatically", noting the rise of Chinese power and the ubiquity of smart phones.

Merkel and the leaders of Germany's 16 states were originally scheduled to hold their next meeting on January 25 to take stock of the latest measures.

Europe's biggest economy crossed two million cases of Covid-19 infections on Friday, with another 1,113 fatalities reported over the last 24 hours.

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