New CDU presidency: Smooth round instead of clear edge

To analyse

Status: 01/22/2022 4:15 p.m

For the new chairman Friedrich Merz it is clear that he wants to lead the CDU into a strong opposition role and then back to the top. When it comes to renewing your own party, however, many questions remain unanswered.

By Sabine Henkel, ARD Capital Studio

One is not there, but very quickly: Shortly after the announcement of the election result, Markus Söder tweeted congratulations from his place in Bavaria. And not only that. Söder sees the CDU and CSU as a team.

Sabine Henkel
ARD Capital Studio

Later, Bavaria’s head of state is connected via video and actually says that he is sorry – for what happened in 2021. That sounds like reconciliation, but what can you say when someone is elected chairman of the big sister party with a whopping 94 percent. Friedrich Merz – he should set up the CDU and initiate the resurgence of the Union.

The road to a general overhaul remains open

This party congress is very much about reconciliation, about common ground and cohesion. Not necessarily values ​​that Friedrich Merz has stood for so far. But now he has this new role, is party chairman and wants to reconcile – including the CDU and CSU. “We’re in such a good combination,” he says in his application speech, “it’s almost a congenial construction that other Christian Democrats envy us for.”

In order for the “congenial construction” to work again, the CDU must first be given a general overhaul. Where Merz wants to start remains open at this party conference. He talks about foreign policy, attacks the government, the chancellor, speaks more like a faction leader. Reorganization of the content of the CDU? Nothing concrete about that.

Instead, generalities: He wants to put up a powerful opposition, win elections in the countries and write a new policy. The friends of the clear edge hear smooth round. “We are liberal and open, open to new things and social and conservative at the same time. That is conservative in the best sense of the word,” says Merz.

A focus on the economy

The conservatives in the CDU are demanding a clear positioning by Merz – less in the middle. Merz ruled out a shift to the right weeks ago. He wants to lead a people’s party and he can’t do without the center. But he makes one thing clear: economic policy will have a clear focus under him.

“We know that the economy isn’t everything, but without a successful and competitive economy, neither the ecological restructuring will succeed nor the welfare state be able to be maintained in the long term,” says the new party leader.

Merz wants the former chairman of the SME and Economic Union, Carsten Linnemann, to lead the program commission. He should draft the new basic program in consultation with him. Linnemann is 44 years old, the future belongs to him. He was elected Merz’ deputy with a good result, together with Michael Kretschmer, Andreas Jung, Silvia Breher and Karin Prien.

Definitely uncritical

But Prime Ministers Daniel Günther and Hendrick Wüst also belong to the new generation, as does Tobias Hans from Saarland. So far he has not been a consistent Merz supporter, but is now convinced of his leadership. “This party congress will give us a new unity that simply wasn’t there. The time of the factional fights will be over because Friedrich Merz will do his best to unite the currents in the party.”

At this party conference, it looks like the CDU is united. At least that’s how it could be interpreted benevolently that the conjured up strong base is holding back. In the so-called debate, only the establishment speaks up – and uncritically. Armin Laschet receives so much praise and recognition that one almost has to doubt whether he is actually responsible for the crashing defeat in the federal election. Clearing up is certainly different, but maybe the CDU has simply switched to departure mode.

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