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27 Feb, 2020 13:27

‘Sanders is 14 years & a heart attack older than me’ – top contender to fill Merkel’s CDU boots name-drops Bernie

‘Sanders is 14 years & a heart attack older than me’ – top contender to fill Merkel’s CDU boots name-drops Bernie

One of the top contenders for the leadership of Germany’s CDU party decided to capitalize on the US presidential race and name-dropped Senator Bernie Sanders to prove that he’s not too old to be Angela Merkel’s successor.

Business executive and former lawmaker Friedrich Merz, who seeks to lead the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU), brought up the independent senator from Vermont to make a point about his age not being a disadvantage.

“When I turn on the TV in the evening, I see how America’s youth is lying at the feet of Bernie Sanders. He is 14 years and a heart attack older than me,” the 64-year-old politician said in an interview with Funke Mediengruppe on Thursday.

At 78, Sanders is the most senior 2020 Democratic presidential contender remaining in the race, and is five years older than incumbent President Donald Trump. Last October, he underwent emergency heart surgery. Merz, too, is certainly older than his two primary opponents for the CDU leadership – Armin Laschet (59), the head of the North Rhine-Westphalia State, and former federal Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen (54).

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Otherwise, Merz and avowed democratic socialist Sanders are quite the opposite. Merz amassed a great fortune sitting on the boards of a variety of companies, from a major insurer and a US-based investment group to a chemical giant, a toilet paper manufacturer and the Cologne Bonn Airport. In 2018, he was widely mocked in Germany for claiming to be of “upper middle class,” while owning two private jets and making a million euros a year.

A longtime critic of Chancellor Angela Merkel, Merz has made several headline-grabbing proposals over the years, including a call to toughen the country’s asylum laws and stating that all immigrants “must conform to liberal German leading culture.”

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The ruling CDU has been struggling in recent years, while losing votes to more anti-establishment parties and continuing to feud with its perennial coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPD). A fresh blow to the party came earlier this month, when its regional members openly ignored orders from Berlin and sided with the anti-migrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party to jointly elect the leader of the eastern Thuringia State. This violated CDU’s long-standing tradition of avoiding any forms of cooperation with the AfD and immediately caused a bitter rift with SPD.

The crisis prompted Merkel’s heir-apparent, Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, to promise to step down as CDU leader just two years after being elected.

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