(Prien am Chiemsee, Germany) An air of transfer of power: Angela Merkel delivered on Tuesday in a new scene with her potential successor, the Bavarian Markus Söder, to whom his good management of the pandemic has given the role of favorite.
Ralf ISERMANN, with Mathieu FOULKES in Berlin
France Media Agency
Paddle boat ride at the foot of the Bavarian mountains, carriage ride, before a Bavarian Council of Ministers as part of the Herrenchiemsee castle, inspired by the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles… Everything gave the impression of an award ceremony at the German Chancellery.
The two most popular personalities in Germany, aware of the weight of the images, did not skimp on symbols that will fuel the conjectures on the succession of M me Merkel in 2021.
“You know that I will not stand for re-election next year” after the legislative elections scheduled for the fall and “I am committed to being particularly withdrawn on the issue of my successor,” assured the Chancellor, whose popularity is at its peak after approximately 15 years spent at the head of the federal government.
She just slipped during a joint press conference that “Bavaria has a good minister-president”, Mr. Söder, 53 years, credited throughout Germany for excellent management of the pandemic.
Bavaria is however the region which has the most sick and dead related to COVID – 19. But the cause is to be sought, according to experts, on the side of geographic proximity to a major Austrian home and northern Italy.
The invitation from Mr. me Merkel to participate in the Bavarian Council of Ministers, a first for a federal leader in office, is “a mark of reconciliation after a few difficult years” between the conservative party CDU and its Bavarian party-brother, the CSU, said Söder.
If the CSU, which it directs, has never managed to send one of its members to the Federal Chancellery, despite two attempts in 1980 and 2002, its hour may well ring next year.
M. Söder, a colossus of 1, 94 adept in carnival disguises, clearly ahead of the polls the other contenders on the right, environmentalists or leftists in the race for the Chancellery.
“Markus Söder could be chancellor in 2021. A year ago, that would have been an unthinkable, ridiculous sentence, “noted the weekly Saturday Der Spiegel , who dedicated his front page to him.
A former journalist who has become over the years a mad politician, Mr. Söder keeps repeating that he wants to stay in Munich and not move to Berlin. On Tuesday, he refused to sign a “Söder Chancellor candidate” sign presented to him by a sympathizer.
But he has been particularly skillful for several months, presenting himself as a champion of ecology and the defense of bees, an asset in a country particularly sensitive to climate issues.
M. Söder was also able to take advantage of his provisional functions as president of the conference of German regions, which he held, coincidentally, during the pandemic. He was thus able to sit alongside M me Merkel on the occasion of each conference of press devoted to COVID – 19.
In principle, the role of pretender to the Chancellor's succession should belong to the president of his party.
He must appoint one in December, after the erasure of that long considered the runner-up of the chancellor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.
But the CDU candidates in the running are all struggling in public opinion research.
The moderate Armin Laschet, at the head of North Rhine-Westphalia, is paying his will, contrary to Mr. Söder's prudence, to deconfinate too quickly to get the economy going again. He has had several major COVID outbreaks in recent weeks – 19 to manage.
Another candidate, Friedrich Merz, a convinced liberal, sworn enemy of M me Merkel, struggles to exist during this pandemic, failing to exercise a local mandate.
This situation could force the CDU, at the head of all national polls alongside the Bavarian CSU, to let its partner the candidacy for the chancellery next year.