Dispute over CDU Party Congress: Laschet pleads for postponement, Merz rejects – politically

It was a historic event: the CDU party congress in December 2018.1001 delegates at the Hamburg stock exchange. Angela Merkel makes her final speech as party leader after 18 years at the helm of the CDU, the end of an era.

In the speeches of her potential successors, you feel in the back row: Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer hits the right note, Friedrich Merz cannot get through. The run-off becomes a showdown. In the end AKK wins with 35 votes.

However curious it may be who will succeed Kramp-Karrenbauer: there will be no other party congress in December. In the Konrad-Adenauer-Haus, people would be happy if a party conference could take place at all.

Because the announced date is almost for December 4 in Stuttgart. The number of infections throughout Germany is increasing rapidly. A party congress with 1,001 delegates from all over Germany is risky. And it would – it is feared in the CDU leadership – possibly also send the wrong signal to the population, which must continue to restrict itself.

Applicants for the CDU presidency Armin Laschet and Friedrich Merz argued on Sunday about a possible postponement. While NRW Prime Minister Laschet argued in the “Welt am Sonntag” for a postponement of the CDU federal party conference, Merz turned against it in the papers of the Funke media group. The way out is a decentralized event limited to the election of the new party leadership.

Larger party events are currently “not possible and non-negotiable,” said Laschet of the “WamS”. The party congress is not necessarily required in December, as previously planned.

All pending questions could also be decided after the winter. “We must now focus all our strength, energy and efforts on fighting the pandemic,” Laschet stressed.

Altmaier is for a delay, Merz against

Union leader Ralph Brinkhaus also told the “WamS” that as long as the number of new infections continues to rise at a high level, a party congress is “unthinkable”. Health protection and protection against infection must be decisive for the decision at the party congress. “After that, nothing will come for a long time,” emphasizes Brinkhaus.

Federal Economy Minister Peter Altmaier and CDU presidium member Mike Mohring had previously argued for a postponement of the congress, after which a successor to outgoing CDU chairman Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer should be elected in Stuttgart.

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Friedrich Merz, on the other hand, was against a postponement: “This election must take place, even if a party conference at a location with 1001 delegates should not be possible at the moment”. After all, there is “no emergency”.

The closest CDU summit will meet on Sunday at 4 p.m. with the three candidates for the party chairmanship to prepare the decision for next Monday’s election party conference in early December. This was initially reported by the newspaper “Bild”.

The logo with the letters of the CDU, here a photo from February 2020 at the small party conference of the CDU Lower Saxony in … Photo: Hauke-Christian Dittrich / dpa

Monday the federal executive committee of the CDU meets. Then the decision must be made. It’s not trivial. The general election is about to take place. The demand for the candidate for chancellor is closely related to that of the CDU presidency. A decision must be made between Armin Laschet, Friedrich Merz and Norbert Röttgen. And depending on the form in which the party convention takes place, one of the three can benefit from it.

Vibrating bracelets

Several scenarios are available. The first option would be to leave it at the meeting in Stuttgart. The Konrad-Adenauer-Haus has developed a hygiene concept that includes bracelets that vibrate when one CDU member gets too close to another. But due to the increasing number of infections, Stuttgart is becoming increasingly unlikely.

The second option would be to keep the date but move the party conference to a different location. We are talking about Leipzig. The number of infections is relatively low there. But it is far from certain that it will remain so.

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The third option is a decentralized concept. People in the Konrad-Adenauer-Haus are therefore interested in Lower Saxony. There, the regional association announced a digital election party conference for November. The 400 delegates meet at four different locations. They would then be connected to each other online using video technology.

Such a solution would also be conceivable for the federal party congress. The delegates could then vote in an urn on the spot and the counting would take place immediately. Yet there are also concerns here: what if something does not work technically and the choice can then be legally challenged?

Nevertheless, the Lower Saxony model would probably be better than a pure post vote. Because it can be assumed that none of the three candidates will get an absolute majority in the first vote. So there should be a run-off – which would mean that a postal vote could take several weeks to complete. The last option would be to postpone the party conference. March was mentioned as a possible date. But even then, there is no guarantee that it can take place – many in the CDU leadership are skeptical in this regard.

A Forsa poll of CDU members also found that 68 percent are in favor of December 4 as a date – but they also advocate a different organization of the party congress, such as voting by letter.

Take every opportunity

But whatever the vote is, it is already clear to the Union group leader Ralph Brinkhaus: “Rock the hall, that won’t work,” he said in the Tagesspiegel interview last weekend. He’d seen a few constellations lately. “In the current conditions in a huge gym, very few people sit on widely spread chairs. Try to give an inspiring speech there. ”

Just as the decision between Kramp-Karrenbauer and Merz was made at the party convention itself in Hamburg in 2018, the 2020 race is guaranteed not to be decided at the party congress. “The delegates will have in mind in advance who they will vote for.”

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The three candidates must now take every opportunity to advertise themselves in advance. Recently they were able to practice a digital introductory speech: they were guests of the Junge Union and competed against each other in an internet event called “The Pitch”. But here too there was hardly any mood.

Friedrich Merz, it is said, still hopes to inspire some undecided with a boisterous speech. In the meantime, it could be an advantage for NRW Prime Minister Laschet if the application speech does not play such a big role. He is not considered a particularly strong speaker, but is good at networking.

Whoever wins the race is in the hands of the 1,001 delegates. Still, the result of the Forsa poll of CDU members is interesting: 45 percent would choose Friedrich Merz. 24 percent were for Laschet, 13 for Röttgen.

But the greatest chances of getting a good Union election result in the federal election, most CDU members trust a candidate for CSU Chancellor: Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder. (with AFP, dpa)

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