Members of the Christian Democratic Union have publicly blamed their movement’s leader for the “catastrophic result”. And the embattled leader has even been ordered to U-turn on his claim to have a clear mandate to replace Angela Merkel as German Chancellor by the CDU’s ruling body. The centre-right party and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, which have held power for 16 years, are in chaos after slumping to an embarrassing election defeat.
The conservatives managed to secure a combined 24.1 percent of the vote, down from 32.9 percent four years previous.
Centre-left chief Olaf Scholz guided his Social Democrats to 25.7 percent of the vote, and is now favourite to replace Mrs Merkel.
MPs from Mr Laschet’s party have suggested he should be forced to stand down as CDU leader if he fails to broker a parliamentary majority needed to win the chancellory.
Tilman Kuban, the head of the Junge Union youth wing of the conservative bloc, said: “We lost the election. Full stop.
“The SPD, Greens and the FDP had a clear mandate to forge a coalition.”
Volker Bouffier, the CDU chief minister of Hesse, added: “We have no claim to government responsibility.”
The latest polling suggests German voters back Mr Scholz over Mr Laschet by a margin of more than four to one.
Mr Laschet has been criticised for his attempt to claim that he had been handed a mandate to lead Germany.
But the scale of the defeat, including losing Mrs Merkel’s former seat, has prompted a rebellion.
At a meeting of the CDU’s executive body yesterday, senior members of the party criticised Mr Laschet to his face.
Karl-Josef Laumann, labour minister in the North Rhine-Westphalia state cabinet, fumed: “The operation was bad. The candidate, too, if he loses. Quite simply, that’s always been the way of things.”
Michael Kretschmer, chief minister of Saxony, lashed out during a live television interview.
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He blamed the loss on the “wrong course, the wrong campaign and the wrong candidate”.
Hans-Jürgen Irmer, of the CDU’s right-wing fringe, said Mr Laschet should be sacked if he cannot secure the top job.
Mr Irmer said: “The frustration and the anger in the CDU base are pretty big.
“There are 50 MPs who lost their seats, not because they did a bad job, not because they didn’t show up, but because they were in the downward spiral and couldn’t do anything.”
The veteran politician added that Mr Laschet was so unpopular in some areas of Germany that activists refused to put up posters with his face on.
“He never made an impression,” Mr Irmer vented.
“If you want to win an election, you need some members who are really ardent about the candidate in the best sense of the word, who go out on the streets with enthusiasm and feel that they’re making a stand for something. And the enthusiasm for Laschet as a candidate was — I’ll formulate this very elegantly — restrained.”
The right-wing WerteUnion, of 4,000 CDU members, demanded that Mr Laschet and Mr Soder resign immediately.
Ellen Demuth, a centrist CDU MP from the Rhineland-Palatinate region, also ordered their failed leader to quit.
“Armin Laschet, you lost,” she said.
“Please understand this. Prevent further damage to the CDU and stand down.”
Mr Laschet can still become chancellor but must first secure the support of two coalition parties.
He must woo the Green party and liberal Free Democrats.
But Mr Scholz will provide stiff competition, with his Social Democrats already in talks with the two parties.
The centre-left leader even mocked his conservative opponents, suggesting it was time for the CDU-CSU group to end its leadership hopes and drift into opposition.