The German CDU regroups in opposition, without Merkel and with the right-wing Merz

Berlin, Jan 22 (EFE) .- The German Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is holding a federal congress tomorrow, Saturday, aimed at reorienting itself as the leading force of the German opposition and ratifying the right-wing Friedrich Merz as the new leader, historical rival of the centrist path represented by former Chancellor Angela Merkel. After losing its status as a government force, the CDU is “freed” from having to make commitments to a coalition partner, Merz said today, speaking to ARD public television, before tomorrow’s congress, which will be held virtually by imperative of the coronavirus pandemic. It is time to “define one’s own profile” and “regain lost ground”, continued the designated new leader, whose conservative bloc sank in the last general elections, in September, in its downward record in national elections with the centrist Armin Laschet as a candidate. The electoral defeat and the replacement in favor of the Social Democrat Olaf Scholz, elected chancellor at the head of a tripartite with the Greens and the Liberal Party (FDP), put an end to Merkel’s 16 years in power, who in three of her four legislatures ruled in grand coalition. This collapse was followed by Laschet’s commitment to coordinate the renewal of the leadership and the convocation of a consultation between the bases, in which Merz prevailed resoundingly -with 62.1%- against two centrist candidates, Norbert Röttgen and Helge Braun, Merkel’s trusted person. It was the first time that the leadership of the party was defined by the vote of the bases, and not of the 1,001 delegates of the congress, who now have to formally ratify Merz. It will be the first congress of the CDU with Merkel already as former chancellor and away from the structures of the party that she led between 2000 and 2018. As Laschet explained, no type of intervention is planned before the delegates of the former head of the party, who does not aspire either to exercise an honorary presidency, as Helmut Kohl did after leaving power. In 2018 she took the reins of the Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer formation, considered the favorite to succeed Merkel, but who threw in the towel a year later. He was succeeded by Laschet, who prevailed as a candidate in the general elections against his right-wing rivals and then sank at the polls. Neither Merkel nor Kramp-Karrenbauer will be at the post-congress dinner, as they declined Merz’s invitation, according to reports in the weekly “Der Spiegel”. The appointment was an attempt by the new leader to show cohesion and iron out rough edges. The rivalry between the two starts from when Merkel began to climb positions in the party. Merz, 66, joined the youth of the CDU at the age of 16 and became an MEP in 1989, when the now former chancellor was still a scientist from the east of the country outside the political sphere. After Kohl’s electoral defeat in 1998, and in the midst of the party’s irregular financing scandal, he saw how Merkel, who had joined the CDU in 1990 but was already its general secretary and had held two ministerial portfolios, took the reins. In 2002 Mery was displaced by Merkel as leader of the opposition in Parliament, after which he left all his posts in the CDU to go to big industry, at the head of economic pressure groups. He returned to the political forefront in 2018, when Merkel announced her decision not to seek re-election as chancellor. There he presented his first candidacy to preside over the CDU, but was defeated by Kramp-Karrenbauer; two years later he fell again to Laschet. On the third attempt, Merz achieved the clear support of the bases with a right-wing speech, but more moderate than in the past. He promised to keep his distance and maintain the strict cordon sanitaire around the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). He has also assured that under his leadership dialogue will not be opened towards that party nor will “closeness” be tolerated, such as those maintained by the internal current called Werte Union -Union of Values-. His most representative face is the former head of the secret services of the Interior Hans Georg Maassen. The CDU leadership has tried to isolate him politically, although no initiative has been formalized to separate him from the party. Merz considers that an expulsion process would have “little chances” of succeeding, as he declared today on ARD public television. EFE gc/fpa

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