Paradoxically, Friedrich Merz, of all people, enjoys a lot of sympathy in the ranks of the Junge Union, even though the former CDU / CSU parliamentary leader has not really been seen as an active politician for years.
But can Merz defend this advance on Saturday night when the CDU youth invited him and the two other candidates for the CDU presidency, Armin Laschet and Norbert Röttgen, for questioning at Berlin’s Allianz Arena?
It’s an unusual format that the party has agreed to before the Junge Union launches a two-week membership survey. And before – if Corona doesn’t thwart the bill – the roughly 1,000 delegates will decide at a CDU federal party conference in Stuttgart in December on the successor to Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who has been in office for two years.
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“The pitch” is what the GO calls the first meeting of the three candidates to date, broadcast on Phoenix and on the organization’s social media channels, accompanied by stories on Instagram and celebrated as a “show” by the discussion moderators. . After a “disastrous game” for her successor, which Kramp-Karrenbauuer had feared, things should not look like in the course of the 100-minute event.
CDU: turning point after two decades with a woman at the helm
The GO has about one in ten delegates at the party congress. Your voice has a signal effect. And it’s also a turning point: for two decades what it claims to be the only people’s party, the CDU, was led by a woman, first for 18 years by Angela Merkel, then by Kramp-Karrenbauer.
But now three men are running, all lawyers, all from North Rhine-Westphalia. With mouth and nose protection in JU blue you come to the broadcast of the discussion. And everyone is wearing a blue suit. Foreign politician Norbert Röttgen stands out on the outside because he wears his white shirt open and does not have a tie.
Röttgen profiles itself as a modernizer
Röttgen has long been regarded as an outsider in the competition with Merz and Laschet. He does not mention that – unlike his competitors – he will renounce the candidacy for chancellor in his election and that CSU boss Markus Söder would give precedence.
In the evening he presents himself as the great modernizer: “More feminine, younger, more digital and more interesting” is what he wants his party to be. And says sentences like, “We have to get back to politics.” Or, “In short, we still rule as in Adenauer’s time.”
No real differences of opinion for a long time
It takes a long time that evening before real differences of opinion arise. This is also due to the fact that the three candidates are quite close to each other on many given topics – be it accepting the GO’s demand for a federal-level digital ministry, bureaucracy, social cohesion or intergenerational justice.
CDU presidential candidates Norbert Röttgen, Friedrich Merz and Armin Laschet (left to right) shortly before the start of the debate on … Photo: Michael Kappeler / Reuters
Laschet is committed to federalism and the industrialized country – no one really wants to argue it. Current topics such as refugee policy – in 2015 a German Junge Union Day called for an upper limit and thus a distance from Merkel’s course – are only mentioned in passing. In principle, the Young Union in the CDU sees itself as a representative of “pure doctrine” – and just as the Jusos in the SPD want to more or less successfully pull the party to the left, they are pushing for more conservative positions.
None of the three candidates can do without repetitions: Merz repeatedly emphasizes the importance of vocational training to him. And Röttgen mentions the former Soviet Republic of Estonia twice as a model for digitization: ‘Talk to an Estonian that we apply for child benefit on paper’. Laschet summarizes: maybe not Estonia, but France shows: ‘What can we do with the vocational training courses to learn from each other? “
At the end came the most exciting moment
Laschet, prime minister in the largest federal state, wants to score points as the father of the state that has led North Rhine-Westphalia well through the corona crisis so far. Merz as a technology friend: he appealed to parents of schoolchildren to put aside the “fear of electro-smog and Wi-Fi”.
Perhaps the most exciting moment will come at the end. When a user from Brandenburg made the allegation via video that the CDU focused too much on its relationship with the Greens. And ignore too much that they lose a lot to the AfD – and “these are not just right-wing extremists and right-wing extremists”.
The evasive maneuvers of all three applicants in answering this question are difficult: Laschet calls the reinforcement of the AfD a special “East German phenomenon”. Röttgen is aware of a visit to the Thuringian local election campaign by a candidate for mayor of the AfD, who was previously in the SED and then in the SPD. And Merz avoids completely distancing himself from the AfD: “A large people’s party like the CDU does not have to compete with other parties.”