Three men to succeed Merkel at the CDU and the Chancellery

The Christian Democrats elect their president on Saturday who will lead the German right to the legislative elections in September with the hope of occupying the supreme chair.

German Christian Democracy is at a turning point in its history. Gathered at their annual conference, organized virtually, 1,000 CDU delegates will elect a successor to the current president, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, on Saturday. With in sight, the candidacy for the post of chancellor, soon left vacant by Angela Merkel. A page, sixteen uninterrupted years at the head of the largest European economy, is turning.

Three personalities claim the supreme chair: Armin Laschet, 59, the boss of the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia, Friedrich Merz, 65, a cripple of German politics and fierce opponent of the Chancellor, and finally Norbert Röttgen, 55 years old, Chairman of the Bundestag Foreign Affairs Committee. The results will be officially announced on January 22. In 2018, in order to prepare for her political exit, the Chancellor resigned from the presidency of the party by installing her runner-up, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, later appointed Minister of Defense, on a launching pad. Friedrich Merz was at the time the main victim of the operation – which turned out to be a fiasco.

Armin Laschet, January 16 in Berlin. TOBIAS SCHWARZ / AFP

After having accumulated blunders, the former president of the Saar was overwhelmed in the former GDR by the right-wing base of the CDU. Incapable of preventing the crisis, AKK was given a single mission: to organize his succession. Angela Merkel’s empire was in the process of dislocation and the ambitious CDU began to shoot the Chancellor.

The health crisis has completely changed the situation. Angela Merkel got back in the saddle, AKK’s interim was extended and the CDU pulled the chestnuts out of the fire without moving a finger. “When the Germans feel safe, they readily vote for the Greens, when the country is going through difficulties, they rely on the CDU “, philosopher Johannes Winkel, a youth leader of the CDU.

Hostile to the reception of additional refugees and close to the business community, Friedrich Merz is in favor of a change of bar to the right. Eager to bring home a small part of the CDU troops who, since that date, had turned to the AfD, he advocates a hardening of migration policies. He nevertheless rejects any idea of ​​alliance with the extreme right. “Not a single millimeter will be shared with themHe repeats.

«We must provide new answers to new political questions, express our own convictions and formulate our own ideasHe pleaded recently before the Foreign Press Club. His desire for reforms seduced 41% of CDU members, according to the RTL barometer, a majority, rather masculine and aging, who readily accuses Angela Merkel of having numbed the party. But reformist as they are, many delegates are making their calculations in anticipation of the legislative elections in autumn 2021.

However, in the light of the federal election, the former leader of the controversial Black Rock Investment Fund has handicaps. Too divisive, he could hardly govern with the Greens, approached to form the next coalition. It could frighten a majority of Germans, seduced on the contrary by the centrism of Angela Merkel. This is the position rather defended by Norbert Röttgen and Armin Laschet. The latter forms a tandem with the young and ambitious Minister of Health, Jens Spahn, with a more conservative profile than his elder. Even if the leader of the Rhineland does not arouse the enthusiasm of the party, his candidacy could cast a wider net in September 2021. In the corridors of the CDU this is summed up by an aphorism: “The bait should taste like the fish, not the fisherman.»


How Merz gambled away his trump card

Et could be that Friedrich Merz overstimulated his hand this time. On Saturday at the digital CDU party conference it was still very good. Merz was only barely defeated by the North Rhine-Westphalian Prime Minister Armin Laschet in the election of a new chairman. Not even thirty of the 1001 delegates would have had to vote against Laschet and for Merz in the runoff election, and Merz would have been.

Eckart Lohse

That could have been the starting position for a very strong role in the CDU and, if so, in the government of a Chancellor Laschet. Merz, however, refused to be involved in the party presidium, made the irrevocable demand of Laschet to get him the place of economics minister in the last cabinet of Chancellor Angela Merkel, and, as expected, flashed off.

Failure to understand Merz’s maneuver

Anyone who then spoke to loyal Merz supporters encountered incomprehension for this bold maneuver. Not everyone wanted to make this known publicly. Behind the scenes one could hear that Merz had harmed himself, which was suggested by many reactions in his camp. If he had hoped that he could score points with his fans with the accusation that they did not want him in the government, it was a misjudgment, it was said.

One, perhaps the most important political supporter of Merz, expressed himself publicly. After the horror subsided somewhat, the deputy chairman of the Union parliamentary group in the Bundestag and chairman of the SME Union, Carsten Linnemann, said on Monday that Friedrich Merz’s approach had “more than irritated” him.

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Linnemann, who had already supported Merz when it approached the chairmanship in December 2018, told the internet portal of the television broadcaster n-tv: “We are in the midst of the worst crisis this Federal Republic has ever experienced. Entire sectors of the economy are on the brink, waiting for help. We have to concentrate on that now. “

Linnemann had called the narrow defeat of Merz “disappointing” on Saturday. “That will have happened to every Merz supporter,” he added on Monday. He would have been happy about Merz’s candidacy for a place in the party presidium. “If Friedrich Merz had wanted to join the presidium, a solution would have been found.” The election has now been decided, he will support the new CDU chairman Armin Laschet, the chairman of the SME Union announced. Merz also called on Monday evening: “I would ask all delegates to take part in the final written vote and to give our new chairman Armin Laschet a strong vote. And then we go to work together, “it says in a letter to the CDU members.

In the CDU there was noticeable relief on Monday, above all, that the party congress went digital without any significant problems. The result of the written election, which is required for legal reasons, will be announced on Friday. It is expected that some of the previous Merz voters will vote for the only candidate in the postal vote, Laschet.


Friedrich Merz language gives insights into his worldview

Friedrich Merz

In his application speech for the CDU chairmanship, Merz’s own words fell twice in the back.

(Photo: AP)

Language is a lousy traitor. Sometimes it makes us say things that we didn’t really want to say, but that we might think exactly like that. And the unsaid word often has just as much effect as the spoken one.

Friedrich Merz has known what we’re talking about since Saturday morning at the latest. In his application speech for the party leadership of the CDU, his own words struck him twice in the back.

On the one hand, there is the transition that reminded even well-meaning observers of a scene from the comedy series “Stromberg”: “Even those who are socially weak find a heart and care with us. In this context, let me say a word about women. “

You don’t even know what would be worse: If Merz automatically associates women with the socially disadvantaged. Or when it seems natural to him to locate terms like “heart” and “affection” especially in women. Things didn’t get any better when Merz then cited as proof of his friendliness towards women that his wife and daughters could still take it with him.

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The passage in Merz’s speech, in which he rightly cited the development of the corona vaccine as evidence of German innovative strength, was similarly telling. He praised Curevac co-founder Ingmar Hoerr, “who made the discovery 20 years ago that made the vaccine against corona possible. That is a sensational development. That is Germany.”

What Merz did not say: That it was the Turkish couple Ugur Sahin and Özlem Türeci who launched the first corona vaccine with their Mainz company Biontech. Aren’t the two of them Germany? Of course, Merz would probably answer. But apparently not so natural that he would mention them in his speech.

Insight into a subconscious worldview

Merz gave us an insight into his subconscious worldview through his language. A world in which the really important things in Germany are done by men named Ingmar or Friedrich. It is, it has to be said so clearly, a world of yesterday.

Not a single word in such a party conference speech is spontaneous. Everything has been tried and tested umpteen times. Didn’t anyone in the Merz team warn the candidate that their own language would give them away? Or was it believed that the majority of party congress delegates secretly yearn for this very world of yesterday? If so, then this calculation did not work out. The majority of the CDU is further than the candidate Merz.

More: Merz offers to take over the Ministry of Economic Affairs


Markus Söder at Anne Will: “I am determined”

In the Union it is now clear: the die has been cast in favor of Armin Laschet as the new federal chairman. Enough to talk about for Anne Will and her guests. Markus Söder is determined – but evades a question.

It was not easy, the election of the NRW Prime Minister as party leader, the clarification of the K question, strategic decisions of the Union, the further course of the GroKo, the upcoming federal-state conference on pandemic control and the dangers of virus mutants under a discussion hat bring to. Although the round – at least in the political ranking – was illustrious.

The guests

  • Saskia Esken (SPD), party leader

  • Volker Bouffier (CDU), Prime Minister of Hesse

  • Markus Söder (CSU), party chairman and Bavarian Prime Minister

  • Robert Habeck (B’90 / The Greens), party chairman

  • Christian Lindner (FDP), party chairman

The positions on Laschet

For Bouffier, his party conference was “fantastic, great”. Will wanted to know more from him whether Söder was now out of the race for the candidacy for chancellor under the strengthened Laschet. The Union can only be successful if it “puts its full weight on the ramp,” said the Hessian. This meant the upcoming state elections, for example in Rhineland-Palatinate or Baden-Württemberg. The K question will be clarified after Easter. It must have seemed a bit strange to the Hessian country father that the object of Will’s eagerness to question was himself in the group.

Söder, however, evaded. Fighting the pandemic, consolidating the Union’s claim to leadership in the German party structure, clarifying questions about the future – “I am firmly determined,” said the Franconian on the subject, but not on the question of K. It was precisely that with the Union’s decision on direction that did not work out at its party congress Habeck summed up. Friedrich Merz had “nodded around” too much after his own election defeat. In this context, the Greens renewed his realization that the Union was overrated. Before the pandemic, Angela Merkel was ticked off as a leader. Now Corona made the “impression of unity “emerged.

The Union has no answers to ecological challenges, questions of digitization or integration. In the round, Lindner declared himself to be the NRW coalition partner of the FDP in Persona Laschets. The liberal had to emphasize, however, that there would be “intensified discussions about the processing of the debts” that had been accumulated by fighting the pandemic in the middle of the year. Not to mention topics such as economic growth, the labor market situation and digitization.

The positions on Corona

The company is looking forward to the federal-state meeting on Tuesday with excitement. Söder and Bouffier revealed what many already suspected: an extension of the lockdown is imminent. But is it also tightened in the depth of the restrictions, as for example the SPD health expert Karl Lauterbach demands? Then the group painted what felt like a united picture: Shutting down the economy completely is not on the agenda. Curfews are an absolute no-go for Lindner, because they are constitutionally questionable.

The liberal reiterated his criticism that these things were discussed at federal-state level and not in parliament. Söder emphasized that “nobody wants an endless loop (of restrictions)”. In Bavaria they already meet all the requirements that the federal and state governments have made to combat pandemics. It is more about “the inner attitude of wanting to fight the pandemic” – and in doing so he made the reluctant national fathers in other federal states responsible. Rather, the discussants put on the table to force vaccination and tests as quickly as possible, to demand effective FFP2 masks and to obtain clarity about virus mutations.

The excitement of the evening

In addition, the group discussed the legal requirement for companies to enable their employees to work from home or to explain reasons why this is not possible. Esken in particular criticized the fact that the Union was now jumping on the bandwagon, but had defended itself months ago against the initiative of its party friend, Labor Minister Hubertus Heil. Söder did not move away from this, but brought tax incentives for companies into play. Habeck cut into the notch and emphasized that the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Act already provides for the legal right to work from home.

Especially Bouffier countered. That is correct, but the federal states have to cope with the bureaucratic effort involved in implementation. The Hessian caused astonishment at the presenter with his “composure”, as she called it. For example, the Union man had previously spoken of the fact that retirement homes would be tested across the board. Will and Esken shouted “no” in almost unison.

With a view to Tuesday, Bouffier said that one had to wait for the scientific findings and the associated practical help – also from Great Britain – on the mutations. Will looked a little desperate: With an average of one thousand corona deaths a day, Germany has now reached the level of the USA. Söder nodded, Bouffier called his attitude “prudence”.

The quote of the evening

That came from Habeck. “Then a sound creeps in like: We have this under control and you angry people don’t obey. That’s not good.” He was referring to a tendency among political decision-makers to place the blame for not falling infection rates almost entirely on society. It should rather be about promoting the acceptance of measures and the use of alternative means. For example, by providing all sections of the population with effective FFP-2 masks in a rich country like Germany. The humility that still existed in politics in the spring is missing.

The fact check

But what about the home office in practice? The corona pandemic has certainly made this way of working widespread. This was shown, for example, by a short survey conducted by the Bavarian Research Institute for Digital Transformation (bidt) among around 1,500 professional internet users. In addition, acceptance on the part of employers and employees has increased since then.

Accordingly, the corona crisis in an overall view has a lasting impact on the change in the world of work and the digital transformation. The Hans Böckler Foundation also confirmed the same in a representative survey in June 2020. At that time, 16% of those surveyed stated that they worked exclusively or mainly in the home office. A share of 17% split daily work between being in the office and working at home. In November, however, the number of those who work almost exclusively in the home office fell to 14%. New approaches in the digital world of work will therefore not only redefine the place of work, but also pose challenges in terms of working hours and the reconciliation with family life.


The battle for the course continues

Armin Laschet (l.), Friedrich Merz and Paul Ziemiak (r.) After the election at the digital CDU party conference.
Image: Reuters

It is not without reason that the CDU believes that Armin Laschet can overcome the division within the party better than Friedrich Merz. To do this, however, the new chairman must also surpass himself.

Dhe father’s miner’s brand brought Armin Laschet the luck it should bring him. He was elected ninth chairman of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany with a 55-vote lead. However, it takes more than the support of the father and the shine of a piece of brass to turn this scarce luck into a strand for the new Steiger and his party. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who also comes from a mining region, came to the top of the party two years ago with almost the same percentage – and failed within a year. The CDU is not a cozy party of dignitaries. It is the Bayern Munich of German politics: Anyone who does not meet expectations – to get the next championship / chancellorship – will be dropped. The disregard that Angela Merkel finally allowed her former successor to be granted in Munich did not even have to endure even the most hapless coach.

Laschet’s chances of escaping this fate and inheriting Merkel in the Chancellery are better. The CDU would have to be powdered with the SPD’s clip bag if it refused to support its new chairman like his predecessor in the super election year 2021. Laschet will take care not to repeat her mistakes. Merkel has not been in office for long either. But the struggle over which direction the CDU should march after the end of its era is not over yet. This is shown by the many votes for Friedrich Merz and also his offer, published immediately after the defeat, to join the government as Minister of Economics – still the government of his old enemy Merkel. The word is not an exaggeration, in any direction.


In the Union, the motto now applies: Glückauf, the Laschet is coming

Armin Laschet delivered again. The eternally underrated cleared three competitors out of the way at the CDU federal party conference. It was Friedrich Merz, Norbert Röttgen and also Jens Spahn. It was not the first time that the North Rhine-Westphalian Prime Minister showed stamina and kept his nerve, even if many wanted to praise him on the President’s chair. He ran his candidacy and his courage was rewarded.

Now Laschet is at the head of the CDU. This means that the candidate for chancellor is within his grasp. The last two Chancellors Gerhard Schröder and Angela Merkel consider the Aachen resident to be cut from the right cloth. You trust him to fill the most powerful government office in Germany. With Merkel, however, the main concern was to prevent her intimate enemy Friedrich Merz. Any other candidate was fine with her. Gerhard Schröder justifies his praise for Laschet in terms of content. It is suitable because it can combine the economic and the social.

So far, Friedrich Merz has always been the favorite in business. However, Laschet has shown in North Rhine-Westphalia that he can pursue an active industrial policy. This is part of the standard repertoire of a NRW Prime Minister. What stands out, however, is that, unlike the federal government, he has already created a digital ministry in Düsseldorf. With the FDP politician Pinkwart, he also found the ideal man for it.

Laschet has proclaimed a “decade of modernization”. Important elements here are startup funding and a moratorium on taxes and duties. What is still missing is a tax concept. Laschet says he doesn’t want to talk about it until after a cash drop after the general election. But he cannot avoid this major reform project beforehand if he wants to successfully combat the economic consequences of the pandemic.

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In terms of location competition, Germany has slipped dramatically. This is especially true for corporate taxes. Countries as different as the US and France have already cut taxes. In Germany, companies are longingly waiting for the same to happen in this country. For the service providers, the complete abolition of the solos would also help, which incidentally all medium-sized companies have to pay.

The fight for the candidacy for chancellor is still ahead

Laschet won a mountain stage by winning the CDU chairmanship. But it is not more. The individual time trial against the ambitious Markus Söder is still ahead. The Bavarian Prime Minister has not yet withdrawn his own ambitions for the Union to run for chancellor. In addition, Laschet will face further tests.

For one thing, he has to pacify the party. After all, Friedrich Merz has won almost half of the votes and is still a favorite of the base. When it comes to merging different camps, however, Laschet can play to its strengths, as a look at his state cabinet shows. He has a black sheriff as interior minister and a Sacred Heart Socialist as welfare minister.

Then come the state elections in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate. There the CDU has to win against two popular prime ministers. This will show for the first time whether there is a Laschet effect.

But the overriding topic is the fight against the corona pandemic. As party chairman and possible candidate for chancellor, Laschet is now paying even closer attention to every small breakdown and every major mishap in his crisis management. In terms of communication, he’s clearly lagging behind Markus Söder so far. The Franconian cannot show any better figures, but in the surveys he is ahead of Laschet thanks to clever rhetoric and staging.

Laschet’s election was also a directional decision that left its mark on the election campaign. The SPD had secretly hoped for Merz. A Merz-prevent election campaign would have mobilized their electorate to the maximum. That is now completely eliminated. The Greens can live extremely well with Laschet. He belongs to the Pizza Connection and thus one of the banner bearers from the very beginning. The FDP can be happy twice. Laschet has made a clear commitment to his black-yellow coalition. In addition, the FDP does not have to fear that Friedrich Merz will steal bourgeois voters from them.

Laschet caressed the soul of the party in his speech. He successfully solicited trust. He gave the digital goosebumps moment when he remembered his father, who was a miner and showed his badge with the number 813. The Germans love ascension stories and Laschet set this point ingeniously. That is why the old Steiger motto now applies in the Union: Glückauf, the Laschet is coming.

More: This is what the new CDU boss’s economic policy plans look like.


This is what the team of the new CDU chairman looks like

Armin Laschet

Armin Laschet was elected the new chairman of the CDU with 521 votes.

(Photo: dpa)

Berlin The new chairman of the CDU, Armin Laschet, will also be supported by five deputies in the future. Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn, who was previously a member of the Presidium, fought with Laschet in the team for his victory and was scheduled to be his vice-president in advance. So Laschet was able to unite the Spahn supporters behind him.

However, Spahn only received 589 of the 965 votes. Internally it was said that the supporters of the defeated Friedrich Merz had refused his vote. Others said that Spahn had received the receipt for not behaving fairly on election day: After the candidates’ speeches, he had spoken in the question and answer session and not asked a question, but promoted Laschet and himself.

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