The CDU is postponing the election of its new boss until next year. Friedrich Merz sees this as a conspiracy. What are the arguments – and where is he right?
How does the party administration justify the postponement?
The deciding authority justified the delay mainly with the corona situation. The planned attendance party conference on December 4 in Stuttgart with 1,001 delegates can no longer be held given the rapidly increasing number of infections. Addressing the corona pandemic is currently more important than the leadership question in the party, so the argument.
What does Friedrich Merz accuse the party of?
The former Union leader accuses parts of the CDU of trying to prevent his election with some sort of conspiracy. “The last part of the ‘Prevent Merz’ campaign in the CDU has been running since Sunday. And that runs the full breadth of the establishment here in Berlin,” Merz said in an interview with “Welt”. Who the long-standing top politician, returning from a political break in 2018, meant by ‘establishment’ was left open. But he seriously reproached his promising competitor in the battle for party leadership: “I have very clear, unambiguous evidence that Armin Laschet has set the motto: he needs more time to improve his performance.”
Is there any evidence of a conspiracy?
One thing is clear: the competition for such a powerful office is always a fierce power struggle. And in fact, there are many union representatives in the Bundestag promoting Armin Laschet – including in management positions. However, according to a new study by the Forsa Institute for RTL and n-TV, Merz is only 45 percent ahead of Laschet (24 percent) and Norbert Röttgen (13 percent). There, however, CDU supporters were interviewed. The opinion of delegates at a party congress is usually different. Merz refers to these studies in arguing that Laschet wants to save time by delaying it. However, Merz has so far provided no concrete evidence that Laschet personally or the “establishment” could have pushed through this shift.
What is the legal requirement for party conferences?
Party law is decisive for this. Traditionally, a face-to-face conference was negotiated for party conferences in which elections were held. This has recently changed in view of the corona pandemic. For party conferences with elections, digital events with subsequent voting by post are now also possible. This is exactly what Merz suggested for December.
However, the party board was told that the postal vote lasted 70 days – so there is no ideal solution there. Merz said the count was a counter-argument over the Christmas season. He thinks this is an advance. And in an interview with Deutschlandfunk (DLF), Secretary General Paul Ziemiak was actually unable to adequately explain why a digital party conference with postal voting would not be possible in December – but maybe later.
Will the CDU soon run out of leadership?
Merz states that as of January 1, the party no longer has unconditional legitimized leadership, that is, no substantial decisions can be made anymore. He wanted to prevent that. In fact, the board of directors will not be in office until next year. In an interview with the DLF, Ziemiak did not call this particularly problematic. The delegates elected to the party congress in December also remained in office until the next party congress, if no new ones could be elected by then due to the pandemic.
What do Laschet and Röttgen say?
North Rhine-Westphalian Prime Minister Armin Laschet had already argued for postponement of the party congress until next weekend. Now he told dpa news agency that by postponing its party conference, the CDU would take its overall social responsibility and referred to the fight against the corona pandemic. Norbert Röttgen described the delay as difficult for all parties, but supported the decision.
Who benefits from procrastination?
According to his statements, Merz believes that Laschet could use the time to catch up in the internal party race. The corona pandemic is considered the hour of the executive, Laschet as prime minister could show that he is well-managed the crisis. However, this does not seem to be the case. Unlike Markus Söder in Bavaria, Laschet has not always looked good in crisis management recently, at least in terms of public image, although this was not always covered by the specific corona situation in both countries.
Laschet may have to enforce and explain strict restrictions in winter. The question is whether he should use this in view of his popularity and therefore indirectly in the race for the presidency. At the same time, Merz – apart from interviews – has little chance to distinguish itself. If he can’t bring himself to end the race in his favor before Christmas, he can at least hope for more sympathy by portraying himself as a party outsider in the fight against the establishment.
What’s next now?
The federal administration should reassess the corona situation at its last regular meeting before the Christmas holidays on Dec. 14 and, if possible, make a decision. The decision must be taken at the latest during the board meeting on 15 and 16 January. If a vote actually takes place by letter, a decision on the new chairman may not be foreseeable until the end of March – in the super election year 2021 – after the state elections in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate, which were difficult for the CDU.
In an interview with the editorial network Germany, Thuringian State Chairman Mike Mohring also deployed an “outdoor solution” in the spring – possibly in a football stadium. This may prevent you from having to wait up to 70 days for a result by post.