The struggle for the presidency of the Union faction in the Bundestag has been decided. The previous incumbent Ralph Brinkhaus is retiring in favor of the new CDU leader Friedrich Merz. In a letter to all Union MPs, the Süddeutsche Zeitung Brinkhaus writes that it’s no secret that Merz and he “have different opinions that we couldn’t clear up”. But this should not “become a personal dissent”. And there should be no dissent that harms the Union – also because of the upcoming state elections. He therefore proposes that clarity be quickly created and that the election of the group leader, which is actually only due at the end of April, be brought forward to February 15th.
Merz “informed him that he intends to apply for the office of chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in any case,” writes Brinkhaus. That’s why he won’t run for office anymore. He is now asking all MPs to “support and carry the new group leader” in the same way he was supported and carried by the group.
Brinkhaus also assures that he “of course” wants to remain a member of parliament. According to information from the SZ, Merz and he have not yet made an agreement about another function for Brinkhaus in the group.
The letter from the group leader is the end of a week-long struggle. At the latest since Merz’s clear victory in the member survey about the CDU chairmanship in mid-December, it was considered certain that he would also aim for the chairmanship of the Union faction. Last weekend, Merz was then elected party chairman by the delegates of the digital CDU party congress with almost 95 percent of the votes.
It became clear to Brinkhaus that he no longer had a chance
The digital vote still has to be confirmed by a postal vote, the result of which should be announced on Monday. However, it is considered certain that Merz will also do excellently in the written vote. Brinkhaus has therefore become clear in the past few days that he will no longer have a chance of staying in office. In the past few days, Merz and he had talked about the situation several times. Now Brinkhaus is forestalling a vote with his voluntary withdrawal – and he is saving the Union from an unpleasant argument like the one between Armin Laschet and Markus Söder last year.
Merz thanked Brinkhaus on Thursday evening. Now the party and parliamentary group chair could be put in one hand, said Merz: “We are thus bundling the work in the party and parliamentary group.” Brinkhaus will remain an important member of the faction – and he will be happy to take advantage of his skills and support.
Brinkhaus himself only came into office after a long struggle. In 2018 he challenged the then parliamentary group leader Volker Kauder. And he had won the vote, although the then party leaders Angela Merkel (CDU) and Horst Seehofer (CSU) had campaigned for Kauder.