Future CDU General Secretary Czaja: Merz’s social conscience


As of: 01/18/2022 4:13 p.m

He is regarded as a caretaker in the neighborhood and at the same time as a political soloist. Now Mario Czaja, as Secretary General, is supposed to put the CDU back on the road to success. Who is the man in Team Merz?

By Kirsten Girschick, ARD Capital Studio

Anyone looking for a contrast to Friedrich Merz can find it with Mario Czaja. East German, social-liberal and big-city growth. President of the Red Cross in Berlin. If Czaja were also a woman, the contrast would be perfect. Then Merz would hardly have invented the auxiliary construct of a deputy general secretary. But Christina Stumpp from Baden-Württemberg should take over this part.

Kirsten Girschick
ARD Capital Studio

The similarities are only apparent at second glance. Like Merz, Czaja is more grassroots than party official. Like Merz, Czaja is considered a lone fighter who likes to bluntly attest his party to be on the wrong course and, above all, relies on the strength of his own personality.

He can win elections

For Merz, this led to a surprisingly clear victory in the member survey for the election of the new party leader. Czaja made it into the Bundestag. In the September election, he received 7.1 percentage points more first votes than his predecessor Monika Grütters in his Berlin constituency of Marzahn-Hellersdorf. As the only CDU candidate nationwide, Czaja gained the first votes. In doing so, he ousted Petra Pau from the Left Party, which had always won the constituency since 2002.

“He showed that he can campaign” – that’s how Merz judges. During the election campaign, Czaja focused on social issues, education and health policy. He courted the voters personally, organized festivals and advice offices on Corona and other local concerns. Promised to fight for improvements in the neighborhood, such as an outdoor pool.

Mario Czaja (right) is to become the new CDU general secretary in Merz’s team.

Image: AFP

The fact that he is running for the CDU was often only apparent at second glance. And he didn’t always take the truth very seriously during the election campaign. In Marzahn-Hellersdorf, a particularly large number of people live in cooperative apartments, which used to be a clear potential electorate for the Left Party. Although long refuted, Czaja claimed that the “Deutsche Wohnen & Co. expropriate” initiative, supported by the left, also wanted to expropriate cooperatives.

Proximity to the Left Party, differentiation from the AfD

In the constituency, on the other hand, Czaja often enough seeks proximity to the left. That got him into trouble in the 1990s, right up to a party expulsion procedure that ended unspectacularly at some point.

Even today, Czaja considers cooperation with the local left to be unproblematic.

I stand by the basic decision that excludes cooperation with the left at federal and state level. But at the municipal level, where there are no coalitions, equating cooperation with the left and the AfD would belittle the AfD.

That alone triggers gasping among some party members. However, Czaja sees himself on the same page as future party leader Merz, at least as far as the AfD is concerned. He had made it clear – even before his official election – that if anyone from the CDU wanted to work with the AfD, there would be a party exclusion procedure the next day.

Czaja welcomes Merz’s clear announcement.

In such fundamental issues, clarity and truth must apply from the outset and be formulated unequivocally.

Take care, take care, take care

Czaja doesn’t want to accept the fact that in many places in eastern Germany, 20 to 25 percent of voters vote for the AfD. Take care, take care, take care, that’s Czaja’s approach to getting the voters back. Just as he has been doing in his own constituency for decades. But there is one of the first construction sites for the new Secretary General. Because the CDU has lost so many direct mandates, especially in the east, there are fewer constituency offices and fewer local employees. That makes caring much more difficult.

Linnemann for the party program

The new general secretary wants to take care of the structures of the party first. There should be more digital participation options, more direct dialogue with the party base. This should also flow into the basic program process – which, however, should not be led by the Secretary General, but with Carsten Linnemann, a representative of the economic wing. He attests to the designated Secretary General:

Mario Czaja demonstrates a high level of professionalism and social skills. He’s not one to say oops, here I come.

A “rather quiet doer”

This is also confirmed by someone who knows Czaja from his politically most difficult time. Albrecht Broemme, former President of the Federal Agency for Technical Relief. In 2015, as Berlin Senator for Health and Social Affairs, Czaja was also responsible for taking in refugees. The state office (LaGeSo) for which he is responsible was completely overwhelmed and the situation was unbearable. Broemme helped organize a large shelter and today says of Czaja that he is someone who listens and can also take advice. “A rather quiet doer”.

Party friends, however, found it not at all quiet how Czaja attacked the Berlin top candidate for the House of Representatives and state chairman Kai Wegner in May last year. He had not condemned Hans-Georg Maaßen’s candidacy in Thuringia, but said that of course Maassen could have a place in the Berlin CDU. Czaja accused Wegner of a shift to the right, and the Berlin party leadership reacted with outrage.

Czaja has also been at odds with his Berlin regional association.

Image: AFP

Unlike Ziemiak, Czaja lacks home power

When Czaja officially moves into the Konrad-Adenauer-Haus as the new CDU general secretary after his election at the party conference on Saturday, he will lack a strong home power. Unlike his predecessor Paul Ziemiak, who, as chairman of the Junge Union and a member of the strong NRW state association, could be sure of broad support. And Czaja lacks time. The first state elections in Saarland are already scheduled for the end of March, for which he, as Secretary General, has to share responsibility. Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia will follow in May. A bad finish would not go unnoticed by Czaja.

allegations of lobbying

And something else could cause problems for the future Secretary General: the accusation of lobbying for a company in the health sector. As the “Spiegel” reports, Czaja is said to have been the managing director of Brückenköpfe GmbH until November 2020, which supports and finances start-ups for digital solutions in the healthcare industry. Some of his ideas are said to have been incorporated into the digital supply law of the then Federal Health Minister Spahn.


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