CDU is looking for party leader: departure in decline

To analyse

Status: 17.12.2021 4:53 a.m.

The CDU is taking a step towards the future today: The party announces who the grassroots would like to see at the top. Merz, Röttgen or Braun. Looking over a party.

An analysis by Sabine Henkel, ARD capital studio

When the SPD chairman Lars Klingbeil speaks about the political competitor CDU, he likes to use a cliché. “They stopped in the 1990s.” That may be an exaggeration, but the CDU has actually not moved rapidly. It is not for nothing that all candidates for the party chairmanship have committed themselves to “modernization”.

Sabine Henkel
ARD capital studio

The CDU is actually getting on in years: The members are predominantly men around 60. Women are desperately wanted. For the party chairmanship, however, no woman was able to prevail in the nomination process. The candidates Helge Braun, Friedrich Merz and Norbert Röttgen compete with women at their side – in the team they say. Röttgen and Braun want to make a woman general secretary if they are elected. Braun explains that she cannot imagine that the three remaining leading positions that the CDU still has to assign – party chairman, parliamentary group chairman and general secretary – would relegate women to deputy positions. He thinks this is out of date in 2022.

How the CDU elects the party leader

This afternoon, the CDU announced the result of its member survey on the future party leader. The 400,000 party members were able to vote for the first time in the history of the party. They voted for Armin Laschet’s successor by postal vote or online. Former Chancellery Minister Helge Braun, former parliamentary group leader Friedrich Merz and former Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen have applied.
If no applicant has an absolute majority, a runoff election is necessary. It would run until January 12th. On January 21st and 22nd, a digital party congress will officially choose Laschet’s successor.

Too much compromise, too little edge

The CDU will have to deal with itself a lot in 2022. A new basic program is pending, the valid one was once written by Ronald Pofalla, the older ones remember: He was once General Secretary – when the party leader was Angela Merkel. As party leader, she has led the CDU to the center of the political landscape. Some people accuse her of that today: too much compromise policy, too little clear edge.

Two short-term chairmen failed to take over the Merkel CDU and lead it into the future. And it won’t be easy for the next CDU boss either. The party lacks a compass in terms of content. The Merkelians want to stay in the middle, the conservatives to the right, preferably with Merz. But suddenly he also sees himself in the middle team. “With me there will be no shift to the right in the CDU,” he says. “With me there should be a clear profile and I want everyone who see themselves as Christian Democrats in the broadest sense to find a political home in the CDU.”

And then there is the CSU

The CDU is currently looking for its parliamentary home in the opposition. Former ministers received the results of the election for the parliamentary committee and the leadership of working groups from the displeasure of party friends: Jens Spahn, Anja Karliczek and Julia Klöckner – all punished. Whoever will lead the party in the future has to have one first: the frustrated who have lost their mandate in the Bundestag, those spoiled for success and struggling with acclimatization problems in the opposition.

And then there is the CSU, with which the CDU is at odds. Röttgen proclaimed that the top priority was to turn the ratio back on. “My first topic is unity, because we are not closed, CDU and CSU, then we don’t even need to talk about the topics.” But they will have to talk about the issues. Whenever. For Braun it is then a matter of turning the CDU into an attractive party in terms of content: “We have to be down to earth and we have to be close to the people.”

Citizens humiliated the CDU and shrunk it to a 24 percent party. That gnaws at the proud party and its self-image. So she needs a chairman who gives her courage.

“I would say I give it my all,” says Röttgen. Merz and Braun would definitely say that too. Because less than “everything” will not be enough.

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