Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel Reuters

The two rivals contending to replace Angela Merkel as Germany’s conservative chancellor candidate in the upcoming September election went toe-to-toe on Tuesday in a battle to win over fellow parliamentarians.

The battle between Armin Laschet, the leader of Merkel’s Christian Democrats, and Bavarian CSU leader Markus Soeder has gone from friendly to dirty in the last two days, with a rift in their parliamentary bloc a real possibility, according to Reuters.

Both candidates stated after a meeting that they want a decision made this week as to who will lead their center-right faction.

“Do we want to win?” Soeder was quoted saying to lawmakers. “In the end, it’s not the program that decides but the people,” they quoted him as saying.

A majority of those at the meeting are backing Soeder. There is not a formal process for choosing the leader, who in the past has been chosen behind the scene.

There is talk among conservative politicians that the extended battle for the leadership will damage the bloc ahead of the election. This will be the first time in four elections that the bloc will be running without Merkel at its helm.