Armin Laschet is known for some things, but certainly not for speaking power words. His speech in the Union faction was all the more astonishing. Chancellery chief Helge Braun – one of Angela Merkel’s closest confidants – had questioned the debt brake and therefore brought a constitutional amendment into play. But Laschet immediately stopped the advance with a degree of severity that many had not believed him capable of.
“Should members of the government consider it necessary to want to change the constitution, they should coordinate this with the party and parliamentary group in the future – you can’t just do that,” said Laschet. It was only one sentence, but it was a declaration of war. The new CDU leader has made it clear that the party and Union faction no longer want to accept that the Chancellery regularly treats them like subordinate authorities.
It doesn’t matter whether Helge Braun’s approach is correct or not – you can’t act like the head of the Chancellery. On the one hand, Braun opened the debate in such a raid-like manner that – at least in the Union – it has already ended. So Braun himself harmed his cause. Above all, however, he has shown an arrogance on the part of the Chancellery towards the MPs, to whom they have been allergic for years.
It is hard to imagine that Braun made his advance without the knowledge of the Chancellor
The fact that Volker Kauder was voted out of the head of the Union parliamentary group was also due to the fact that the MPs were tired of being often only treated as vicarious agents for the Chancellery under Kauder. The Chancellor is elected by the MPs and not the other way around. But Merkel seems to like to forget this after a good 15 years in office.
Although the Chancellor had explained to Braun’s move that it was a “personal contribution to my opinion” – she did not distance herself. And neither in the top of the Union parliamentary group nor in the CDU can they imagine that Braun would undertake such an advance without the knowledge of the Chancellor. In any case, the following applies: Braun behaved improperly towards the party of which he is a member.
The chancellor and her minister attended the meeting of the CDU presidium on Monday, but neither of them said a word about the debt brake. Braun has not even made a hint that a few hours later his advance would become public. He also knows about the importance of the debt brake for the Union.
So far, the new party leader has been lucky
After Merkel’s many years in the Chancellery, there are hardly any concrete positions that are associated with the CDU – the debt brake is one of them. No tax increases, sound financial management, black zero and the debt brake – that is the Union’s silverware. Wolfgang Schäuble is an example of how important it is to the party. Anyone who visits the President of the Bundestag in his office inevitably has to look at a large photo on the wall behind his desk: The employees of the Federal Ministry of Finance have given him a black zero in his honor.
But what does all this mean for Armin Laschet? Right at the start of his term in office, he had to find out what Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer had experienced for two years: that it is not easy to be CDU boss alongside a CDU-run chancellery. However, Braun’s unskillful advance also gave Laschet a chance to distinguish itself. And he has now used it.
So far, the new CDU boss has been lucky enough to do so. He has only been in office for a few days, but three potential troublemakers have already sidelined themselves through politically silly behavior: Friedrich Merz with his demand to become economics minister; Jens Spahn with his unfair appearance at the CDU party congress; and now Helge Braun.