Friedrich Merz is angry. When he arrived at the studio Monday morning for his performance in the ARD morning magazine, it became clear that the CDU party convention in December would not work. He is firmly convinced that despite Corona, a party conference is possible, says Merz.
[Wenn Sie alle aktuellen Entwicklungen zur Coronavirus-Pandemie live auf Ihr Handy haben wollen, empfehlen wir Ihnen unsere App, die Sie hier für Apple- und Android-Geräte herunterladen können.]
If not, it should at least be a digital party conference. “And if we don’t hold this party conference either, then I have to say: Corona can no longer be justified.” There are “significant parts” of the party government “who want to prevent me from becoming party chairman”.
At the latest, it is clear: the decision to postpone the party congress means disagreement. The night before, CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer sat among the three candidates for the CDU presidency for a long time. There was no agreement. Now the top of the CDU has decided on some kind of compromise that does not satisfy all three candidates.
Merz is currently leading the way among members
The party congress scheduled for December 4 with the election of the new CDU boss will be postponed due to the rapidly increasing number of infections. In mid-December, the CDU leadership wants to discuss again whether a presence party conference will be possible in the foreseeable future. Otherwise there would have to be a digital party congress and – if the law does not allow this – a vote by letter. The final decision on the form of the party congress should be made no later than mid-January, CDU Secretary General Paul Ziemiak said in Berlin on Monday.
It is no wonder that the debate over the timing and form of the party congress is so heated in the CDU: procedural issues are questions of power. Friedrich Merz sees himself at a disadvantage by the delay.
It wasn’t until the weekend that a Forsa poll came out, in which significantly more CDU members spoke out for him than Armin Laschet or Norbert Röttgen as CDU chairman. It is true that the deputies, not the ordinary members, decide the party leader. Nevertheless, the survey can be read as a barometer of sentiment, which is currently in favor of Friedrich Merz.
But it doesn’t have to stay that way. Unlike the Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, Armin Laschet, Sauerland does not have a government office. If the contamination situation worsens further, Merz can go back to the background.
The shift is viewed with concern
Now he is trying to re-position himself as a candidate against the “party establishment”. To further fuel this “counter-against-down” story, Merz added Monday afternoon, “The postponement of the party congress is a decision against the CDU base,” he tweeted.
His competitor Armin Laschet, on the other hand, had campaigned for the postponement over the weekend. Candidate Norbert Röttgen also supported this.
So is it still getting ugly in the battle for party leadership? Kramp-Karrenbauer had already called on the candidates in August to behave responsibly. “Whether a selection of good candidates turns into a disastrous competition is the responsibility of each individual,” she said. The irritation about Merz’s statements is correspondingly great in parts of the party.
At the same time, the shift is viewed with concern. The longer the party is without a new chairman, the longer AKK will be on duty CDU leader. The party-internal election campaign will continue in the state election campaigns in spring 2021. And because the candidate for chancellor in the Union is closely linked to the CDU presidency, it will not be clear in the coming months who will lead the Union in the election campaign of the Bundestag.
A vote by letter can take 70 days
If a face-to-face party conference is still not possible due to Corona in early 2021 and a vote by letter becomes necessary, the election of the chairman will also be a difficult process. Secretary-General Ziemiak spoke about 70 days: first the presentations in digital format, the sending of the ballot papers, later the final vote by mail and the election of the alternates in the same way.
In fact, it would have been possible to keep the date at December 4th. Secretary General Ziemiak had proposed that the speeches be broadcast digitally at ten to twelve locations in Germany and that they be voted there. But even against this proposal, the concerns weighed more heavily. For the CDU it therefore remains unclear when and how it will get a new chairman.