Armin Laschet appears to laugh during Steinmeier statement
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Armin Laschet, who is the Christian Democrat (CDU) candidate for German chancellor, has been forced to apologise after sparking controversy yesterday. The successor to Angela Merkel was caught on camera laughing in the background during a speech from the German President, who expressed his condolences to recent flood victims. Devastating flooding in Germany has killed at least 150 people, with hundreds more still missing.
Emergency services, soldiers, and volunteers are still searching for loved ones, and divers have been sent in to search submerged homes for bodies.
Many survivors have been left without access to electricity or clean drinking water.
Video from the speech saw German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier address crowds in North Rhine-Westphalia.
In the background, Mr Laschet could clearly be seen standing and laughing at what appeared to be a private joke with colleagues.
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Mr Laschet was forced into damage control after the embarrassing gaffe sparked a backlash from across the political spectrum.
Lars Klingbeil, general secretary of the governing coalition party the Social Democrats (SPD), said: “I’m really speechless.”
The best-selling Bild daily ran a headline that read: “Laschet laughs while the country cries.”
Maximilian Reimers from the far-left Die Linke opposition party tweeted: “This is all apparently a big joke to Laschet. How could he be a chancellor?”
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Mr Laschet issued a swift apology, tweeting: “This was inappropriate and I’m sorry.
“The fate of those affected is close to our hearts.”
The gaffe comes ahead of a crucial election, as Germans vote for a new government in September.
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The political frontrunner has faced some criticism in the past over his stance on climate change.
Even after the historic floods, Mr Laschet said: “You don’t change policy just because now we have a day like this.”
The CDU were even briefly overtaken by the Greens as the most popular party in opinion polls in May.
On the other hand, German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited areas particularly badly damaged on Sunday, to survey the damage and meet survivors.
Ms Merkel was seen wearing hiking boots and giving fist-bumps to rescue workers in one of the two hardest-hit regions in western Germany.
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