Merz came to the CDU party headquarters in Berlin on Saturday morning, where he wanted to give his introductory speech at around 11.30 a.m. in front of 1,001 delegates. This should be followed by a question and answer session and the online election.
The result should be available around 12.30 p.m. Because of the corona pandemic, only the closest leadership will be present at the party headquarters in Berlin. Merz’s election is considered certain after he was chosen in December in the first member survey in the history of the CDU for party chairmanship with 62.1 percent to succeed Armin Laschet, who failed as a candidate for chancellor. The election is a consequence of the Union’s historically worst result in a federal election, at 24.1 percent. The result must then be formally confirmed by postal vote.
Immediately after the party congress, Merz wanted to gather the new leadership around him for the first time. Officially, the constitutive meetings of the new management bodies should be on February 7th.
Merz called for a “powerful departure”.
Merz, however, called on his party to unite and a powerful departure from the opposition. The party conference sent a “powerful signal of departure and renewal of the CDU,” said Merz. “We haven’t lost our confidence.” Precisely because of the new traffic light government, Germany has a right to a union “that will continue to serve the country, that will provide answers to the pressing questions of our time” and that, as the opposition, will first of all demand that it be the government of tomorrow again can.
“Let’s not fool ourselves: It can be a long way until then,” Merz warned the Union at the same time. “How long the road really will be is not solely up to us, but also up to us,” he added. The CDU must now take action quickly.
“Challenge this Chancellor”
Merz accused German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) of inactivity. According to Merz, Scholz did not show the leadership he had promised in the debate about general vaccination requirements, nor in the face of high inflation, nor in the Ukraine conflict. The most important task of the CDU as the opposition in the federal government will therefore be “to control this government, to challenge this Chancellor”.
Laschet called on his party to be self-confident and together: “Dress warmly! The CDU will be back”. The SPD tries to portray it as if the CDU was lying on the ground and was destroyed. To this he says: “Don’t make a mistake.” The CDU is more than a federal party, it governs in many federal states and also wants to win the upcoming state elections this year.
He expressly supported his designated successor Merz, who had support far beyond the various wings and was “exactly the right person at this time”. It must also be redeemed that the CDU and CSU will never again argue as they did recently about the chancellor candidacy. Laschet, who had prevailed against CSU boss Markus Sder, again emphasized his responsibility for the election defeat. “It’s an open wound, still. And the scar will remain.”
Merz thanked Laschet for his “great commitment” to the CDU. It honors Laschet that he took personal responsibility for the defeat. The CDU “lost the election together”. He and Laschet were opponents and competitors when he was elected party leader a year ago, said Merz. But it never turned into a personal enmity. He is looking forward to further cooperation with Laschet in the Bundestag.
Eagerly awaited count
The outgoing CDU general secretary Paul Ziemiak called on the delegates and members of the CDU to give “full support” to the new party leadership. “We are the CDU team,” he said. He also appealed to his party to implement plans to introduce a quota for women. The structure and statute commission had proposed “that there should be a binding quota for more women in management positions in the CDU,” said Ziemiak.
It was eagerly awaited how much support the 1,001 delegates would give the 66-year-old Merz – and whether he would get the more than 80 percent of the votes he was aiming for. Merz will be the third CDU chairman in just over three years, after then-Chancellor Angela Merkel withdrew from the party chairmanship in 2018 after 18 years. In two previous attempts at the party presidency, the economics expert lost to Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer in December 2018 and to Armin Laschet in January 2021.
Ex-Chancellor Merkel is not present at the party conference. Her office had informed her at the request of the German Press Agency. She also canceled an invitation from Merz for a meal on Saturday evening for “scheduled reasons”, as did her successor as CDU leader, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. Corresponding information from the “Spiegel” had been confirmed to the dpa.
Czaja is to become general secretary
At Merz’s request, Mario Czaja, a member of the Bundestag and former Berlin Senator for Social Affairs, is to be elected General Secretary at the party conference. Czaja is said to cover the workers’ wing, among other things.
Of the five previous deputy chairmen, only Silvia Breher, member of the Bundestag from Lower Saxony, is standing again. The Schleswig-Holstein Minister of Education Karin Prien, the Saxon Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer, the Baden-Württemberg member of the Bundestag Andreas Jung and the member of the Bundestag and economic expert Carsten Linnemann are new candidates.
Eight women and men are running for the other seven posts in the party presidency, including the chairwoman of the Women’s Union, Annette Widmann-Mauz, and the previous deputy party leader and former Health Minister Jens Spahn. Tough competition is also looming for the other 26 seats on the party’s federal executive board: 38 candidates had applied by Friday evening. Half of the 54 applicants for the executive bodies of the CDU are women.