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Germany: Who will be the Conservative CDU’s Savior?

Germany’s Christian-Democratic Union (CDU) dropped one of its four options in the process of finding a new leader. Now, it turns out the party’s “new beginning” will not be quite as fresh as announced.

Berlin, November 18th, 2021 (The Berlin Spectator) — Since Angela Dorothea Merkel gave up the chair of her conservative party, this is the third time the CDU needs a new leadership. In 2018, she picked a successor, namely Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer from Saarland, one of Germany’s smallest federal states. But ‘AKK’ had trouble filling those big shoes today’s acting Chancellor had left.

Helge Braun’s candidacy is the only surprise. Photo: Official press photo

Worst Result Ever

The same applied to Armin Laschet. The former First Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia and newly elected party chairman insisted on becoming the CDU’s candidate for Chancellor, and the party board supported him, in spite of the fact that there was a much more convincing option, namely Markus Söder from Bavaria. As a result, the CDU was badly defeated in the elections in September. Since he brought home the worst election result ever, Laschet, who probably should have remained First Minister in Düsseldorf, needs to be replaced.

Armin Laschet will be replaced. Photos: Imanuel Marcus

In December, the third election for a chairperson within three years will be underway. For the first time ever, the CDU’s members are supposed to decide. At a party convention in January, the delegates will officially confirm the decision. There are three candidates. None other than Friedrich Merz is the jack of clubs. He is being pushed by the ‘Bild’ tabloid, which keeps on reporting about him (Merz does this and that, Merz says this and that, Merz considers candidacy, ….). The foreign policy expert Norbert Röttgen is the jack of spades, and the acting Chancellery Minister Helge Braun the jack of diamonds.

Men Back in Control

So, what about the joker? She was dumped. Sabina Buder from Brandenburg had asked the CDU’s district chapter ‘Märkisch-Oderland’ to nominate her, but her colleagues refused to do so because she did not convince them in regard to her motivation. The 37-year-old Mrs. Buder is known as a harsh critic of her own party. Her gender was probably not the reason she did not become a candidate for the party chair. But the men will be in control again. They will have to make sure the CDU does not sink all the way to the bottom of the ocean.

Friedrich Merz has good chances. Photo: Official press photo 2020, Friedrich Merz

Friedrich Merz is 66 years old. The clarinet-playing pilot for small planes is probably the only multi-millionaire among the candidates, but still considers himself part of the “upper middle class”. Merz, who supposedly played cards during classes when he was in high school, does have a lot of experience. In 1972, at the age of 17, he became a CDU member. In 1989, he was part of the European Parliament. Five years later, in 1994, he was an MP at the Berlin Bundestag. It took him four years to become deputy floor leader and another two to reach the top post in the caucus.

Fired by Merkel

One of Norbert Röttgen’s achievements is that he was fired by Angela Merkel when he was Environment Minister. Another is that he lost the 2012 elections in North Rhine-Westphalia as the CDU’s main candidate just before he was fired. Back then, several CDU members criticized Chancellor Merkel for kicking him out. Others understood. The 56-year-old had delivered a few weird quotes during the election campaign. Like Merz, the jack of spades is a Merkel foe.

Norbert Röttgen is the jack of spades. Photo: Official press photo, by Tobias Koch

The biggest surprise here is Helge Braun’s candidacy. At the age of 49, he is the youngest of the three candidates and a medical doctor. In 1990, he became a member of the CDU. In 2013, he won his electoral district in Giessen (German spelling: Gießen). Braun started his Berlin career as State Secretary at the Ministry of Education until Chancellor Angela Merkel invited him into the Chancellery. Since the Corona pandemic hit Germany, he has been very active the fight against the virus.

Swing to the Right

According to polls, Merz might have the best chances to succeed in his third attempt to take over the party. The economy expert would probably pull the CDU back towards the right. The same might apply to Röttgen, while Braun, the jack of spades, stands for continuity more than the competition.

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