It can be seen at first glance: Somebody seems to have big plans. Friedrich Merz has invited to announce his candidacy for the CDU chairmanship. And he is not satisfied, like his competitor Norbert Röttgen, with the hall of the Federal Press Conference – the proven location for such occasions. The candidate Merz presents himself to the public in the annex of a conference hotel in Berlin-Neukölln, in a hall that would be large enough to host entire party congresses. It is his third attempt in three years. This time it has to work, this time there is no mess.
We can start right away. This time there is a lectern with the label #TEAMCDU on a professionally lit show stage in the hotel, where the doppelgangers of Abba, Elvis and Tina Turner usually perform. And there are three well-filled glasses of water on the desk. Music is played, the tension rises.
At 3:03 p.m. Friedrich Merz, Christina Stumpp and Mario Czaja stand behind the water glasses. First of all, Merz shows that you can still have a little stage fright even at the age of 66. When he steps next to the desk and speaks into the microphone of his headset, he greets the audience here “in East Berlin”. The show stage is in the former western part of the city.
In any case, Christina Stumpp comes from the south, the former local politician from Baden-Württemberg has been sitting in the Bundestag for a few weeks and is celebrating her 34th birthday on this day. But of course that is not why it is here now. Under a CDU boss Merz, she is to become deputy general secretary, a post that does not exist yet, but which Merz wants to create for her. He wants to make the former Berlin Senator for Social Affairs Mario Czaja (46) Stumpp’s superior, i.e. General Secretary. “We cover a wide range,” says Merz, after which he chose the two. Stumpp comes from the south, he from the northwest and Czaja from the east.
There will be no shift to the right, promises Merz.
With the election of his general secretary candidates, Merz succeeded in a surprise: Nobody had them on the slip. At Stumpp, most of the people in the hall even had to google who it was.
“There will be no shift to the right in the Union with me here,” promises Merz. The CDU is in a difficult position in its future opposition role. It is not just about winning the upcoming state elections. The CDU must also reposition itself in terms of content, and the issue of social justice will also be at stake. That should show the choice of Czaja. He was Senator for Health and Social Affairs in the capital for five years. And he’s a member of the party’s workers’ wing.
A few hours earlier, Merz had written in his newsletter that the voters’ approval “will not be won back by elegantly surfing the wave of the zeitgeist”, but only with convincing technical work and convincing people.
Now, in the Neukölln hotel, Merz says who he thinks is convincing. The CDU has five deputy chairpersons. He would like Silvia Breher from Lower Saxony to remain vice-president, says Merz. In addition, the Schleswig-Holstein Education Minister Karin Prien and the head of the economic wing, Carsten Linnemann, should move up. He is pleased that Saxony’s Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer is also considering a candidacy to become “the face of the East”. Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner and Health Minister Jens Spahn are currently deputy chairpersons.
Merz thanks Spahn that he had renounced his own candidacy for party chairmanship, he could now become deputy parliamentary group leader. Karin Prien applied – this has to be said at this point – already last week and quite independently of Merz for the deputy party chairmanship.
Is Merz reaching for the parliamentary group chairmanship?
Merz leaves it open as to whether he would also take up the chairmanship of the parliamentary group after an election as party leader, or whether Ralph Brinkhaus should remain in office. “We don’t even have to answer this question at the moment,” says Merz. It is no secret that he thinks it is right that the opposition party and parliamentary group chairmanship are in one hand. But it could also work differently.
The fact that Merz, Stumpp and Czaja actually cover the entire spectrum of the party can be seen in the answers to the question of how to deal with the women’s quota. Stumpp speaks out against it. Czaja is a proponent of the quota. And Merz says: “We have to discuss this quota issue again.”