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Bavarian leader Soeder announces bid to replace Merkel in September election

Bavarian state Premier Markus Soeder speaks during a mourning ceremony for the victims of the COVID 19 coronavirus pandemic in Munich, Germany, March 23, 2021. (By Reuters)

Bavarian minister-president, Markus Soeder, has announced his candidacy for German chancellor as a conservative in a September election, promising that he and his opponent, Armin Laschet, would settle the matter quickly and amicably.

The conservatives are pressing for a quick decision on whether Soeder, the leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU), or Laschet, the leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), should stand for the two-party bloc in the September 26 election, making them the nominee to replace Angela Merkel.

Laschet said the next move will be for CDU and CSU to hold committee meetings on Monday, but he gave no timeframe for a decision.

In opinion polls, Laschet trails Soeder, but as leader of the larger CDU, he essentially has first refusal and the support of some influential state premiers.

Laschet is a leading centrist who is generally regarded as a candidate who will carry Merkel's legacy forward, but he has had a squabble with Merkel over coronavirus restrictions.

His chaotic handling of the crisis has harmed his reputation as Premier of North Rhine-Westphalia.

On the other side, Soeder, 54, is a savvy politician who has supported Merkel during the pandemic.

“We want to win this election in the autumn - that is the main aim, and we are now thinking about the best formation,” Soeder said before adding that “a joint solution will be reached sooner rather than later.”

There has never been a CSU leader elected as German chancellor.

Angela Merkel has led the conservatives to four victories, and now they are wary of contesting the federal election on September 26 without her.

She has ruled out a fifth term but has not stated whether she will endorse any candidate, though she has hinted that she will support the CDU leader.

Meanwhile, Olaf Scholz, minister for Finance, has been nominated by the Social Democrats as their candidate for chancellor, while the Greens expect to announce their candidate on April 19.

Different German parliamentary members and parties have put themselves in the race to win as many seats as possible.

At a weekend meeting, Germany's far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) positioned itself as the anti-lockdown party in an attempt to reclaim support.

Despite coronavirus restrictions, about 600 members of the anti-euro party met in the eastern city of Dresden to agree on an election manifesto, including a call to leave the European Union (EU) and set up a new European community of economies and interests.

However, some conservatives have shifted to the right as a result of the AfD's stern stance on migration, but the party has had little effect on policy since entering parliament.

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