Not just Catholic men: German candidate pledges diversity

BERLIN — The leading contender to succeed Angela Merkel as Germany’s chancellor pledged Sunday to emphasize diversity during the election campaign and in the country’s next government if he wins in September.

Armin Laschet’s center-right Christian Democratic Union was criticized recently for featuring only white models on its flagship election posters.

“The diversity in our society will play a role in the election campaign,” Laschet told public broadcaster ARD on Sunday, adding that the issue was of personal importance to him.

Asked about the high proportion of Catholic men from western Germany in his inner circle and whether they would all be rewarded with Cabinet positions, the 60-year-old insisted that he would aim for gender balance and a fair regional representation when forming a government.

“”There will be parity (of men and women) in the Cabinet and the Cabinet will also reflect all German states, and must also reflect east and west,” said Laschet.

Laschet, the governor of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, won the nomination of Merkel’s Union bloc earlier this year in a contest between three men. Politically he is considered a centrist like Merkel, who chose not to run for a fifth term in the country’s Sept. 26 election.

“In the end what counts is that the diversity of the Union (bloc) is reflected, and also that diversity is a principle in our administration at the top of government,” said Laschet. “That’s not currently the case in Germany. Neither the federal Cabinet nor the Bundestag (parliament) really reflect the variety of Germany society.”

About a quarter of Germany’s population are immigrants or have at least one parent who immigrated to the country. Slightly under two-thirds of Germans belong to a Christian denomination.

Laschet’s two main rivals are Annalena Baerbock of the environmentalist Greens party and the Social Democrat candidate Olaf Scholz.