Armin Laschet moved a step closer to becoming Angela Merkel’s successor on Monday when her Christian Democrat party (CDU) backed him as its preferred candidate for German chancellor in September’s elections. But the party stopped short of formally endorsing Mr Laschet and he still faces a challenge from Markus Söder, the popular and charismatic Bavarian regional leader. “Everyone wants a quick decision,” Mr Laschet told a press conference after CDU grandees declared unanimous support for him at a meeting of the party presidium. “The country’s problems are too pressing for us to waste time on internal party divisions”. But Mr Söder refused to back down, telling a rival press conference: “This is about the central leadership role in the hardest election campaign we have faced since 1998”. Months of behind the scenes rivalry between the two men finally broke into the open at the weekend when both declared they were ready to lead the CDU into September’s elections, when Germany will choose a successor to Mrs Merkel. Mr Laschet was elected party leader in January and would usually be the automatic choice, but a quirk of the German political system means parties name their candidate for chancellor separately, and the coronavirus pandemic has thrown the campaign into chaos.