Merkel on the brink: Appoint Merz or risk Germany being CRUSHED by post-Brexit UK – MEP

Germany: Armin Laschet wins vote to lead the CDU party

Mr Merz yesterday narrowly lost out to Armin Laschet in the CDU leadership contest, putting the latter in pole position to replace Mrs Merkel as Chancellor when she steps down later this year. Hans-Olaf Henkel, who had backed Mr Merz for the top job, accused Mrs Merkel’s supporters of engineering his defeat – while warning the German Chancellor she could not afford to ignore him, but should instead offer him the powerful position of Minister of the Economy.

Mr Laschet, Prime Minister of Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia region, is regarded as the Merkel continuity candidate.

He defeated Mr Merz, who was pushed out of his role as CDU parliamentary leader by Mrs Merkel in 2002, prompting a rift which persists to this day, by 521 votes to 466 in the second round of voting among 1,001 delegates to a specially convened online congress to decide the issue.

Nevertheless Mr Henkel, who stepped down from the European Parliament in 2019, believes the 65-year-old successful businessman, who has not been a member of the Bundestag since 2009, remains a crucial figure who must not be sidelined.

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He told Express.co.uk yesterday: “Merz was clearly blocked by Merkel’s following.

“Still in November, Merz had a huge lead in the polls and among the party delegates.

“That’s why Merkel’s troops used all sorts of tricks and excuses to delay the vote.”

READ MORE: EU on the brink – Victory of ‘mini-Merkel’ may push more countries out

By pushing back the scheduled vote, Mrs Merkel had been able to boost Mr Laschet’s chances while hampering those of Mr Merz, Mr Henkel explained.

He added: “Merkel’s closest advisor Helge Braun, Germany’s Minister of Special Affairs, came out publicly to endorse Laschet, and a number of Prime Ministers close to Merkel, too.

“Since Laschet had a public office he used this to constantly present himself in the media.”

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As a result of Corona, Trump and Brexit Germany is losing its economic position quickly.

Hans-Olaf Henkel

Mr Henkel suggested Mr Merz how had two options.

He explained: “Either he waits for an attractive ministerial post in the next Government for instance as Minister of the economy or he steps aside completely.

“I am in favour of the first because as a result of Corona, Trump and Brexit Germany is losing its economic position quickly.

“Merz would be the only leading CDU person with business experience.”

Mr Henkel was elected as an MEP for Alternative for Germany (AfD) in 2014, before quitting the party the following year after the election of the right-wing Frauke Petry as leader, concerned by its consequent dramatic shift to the right.

He warned: “Next to Merkel, the AfD is the real winner of Laschet’s victory.

“Only the liberal-conservative Merz would have been able to check this right wing party.

“I am sure they will open a few bottles of champagne tonight.”

Speaking after the announcement of the result, Mr Merz himself echoed the words of Mr Henkel, saying: “I offered the new party chairman to join the current federal government and take over the Federal Ministry of Economics.”

Mr Merz claimed he had been offered the role by Mr Laschet – but Mrs Merkel’s office responded a statement saying:”The Chancellor is not planning any government reshuffle.”

Peter Altmaier currently occupies the role – and Marco Wanderwitz, State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Economics and the Federal Government’s Eastern Commissioner, tweeted: “@peteraltmaier does a great job as Federal Minister of Economics. No need for applicants.”

(Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg)

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