CDU and Friedrich Merz: Dual leadership is newfangled stuff – politics

The decision was not easy for Ralph Brinkhaus. But in the end the pressure was too great. On Thursday evening, Brinkhaus announced that he would vacate the presidency of the Union faction – and made no great effort to hide his conflict with Friedrich Merz.

“It’s no secret that Friedrich Merz and I have different opinions about the chairmanship of the parliamentary group, which we haven’t been able to dispel,” Brinkhaus wrote in a letter to all Union MPs. But he doesn’t want this dissent to damage the party – and that’s why he’s clearing the way.

CDU leader Merz will now also take over the group chairmanship. The election will not take place until February 15, but the 66-year-old is sure of the majority. Last weekend, Merz was elected party leader with almost 95 percent, and Brinkhaus had nothing to counter the impact of this excellent result.

But Brinkhaus didn’t just fail because of Merz. He was also opposed to a principle that the CDU has long adhered to: party chairmanship and chancellorship (when in government) or party chairmanship and parliamentary group chairmanship (in opposition) belong in one hand. In 1976, Helmut Kohl took over the chairmanship of the party as well as the parliamentary group. And throughout his chancellorship, he remained the head of the CDU. Wolfgang Schäuble was then also party and faction leader. And Angela Merkel usually wore two political hats.

The fact that Merz combines the offices is a kind of normalization of the CDU

In the long time since 1976, the CDU has not kept to its principle for just over five years. 2000 to 2002, when Merz was parliamentary group leader and Angela Merkel was party leader. And since the end of 2018, when Merkel gave up the party leadership. Those five years weren’t exactly the best in the party’s history.

The fact that Merz is now combining the offices is also a kind of normalization of the CDU. He thanks Brinkhaus “for his willingness to put the two tasks of the chairman in the party and parliamentary group in one hand, we are thus bundling the work in the party and parliamentary group,” writes Merz in his statement on the Brinkhaus withdrawal.

In the case of political competition, there may be double leadership or even double leadership – that is, two people at the top of the party and parliamentary group. And the SPD may consider it right that the chancellor is not also party leader. But at the CDU, they still think that kind of stuff is newfangled. There are also no dual leaders in any of the state associations, the statutes even forbid it. Women like CDU Vice Silvia Breher or Bundestag Vice President Yvonne Magwas, who can imagine the introduction of dual leadership, are still a small minority.

Angela Merkel is also part of the vast majority. In her political life she did not believe in holding offices. In 2002 she pushed Merz out of the group presidency. And the fact that Gerhard Schröder resigned from the SPD presidency during his chancellorship was, in Merkel’s opinion, a serious mistake. “I didn’t think it was right that he gave up the party leadership,” Merkel once said. “Important” things were no longer “in one hand”, it was clear that this would have consequences. In the year after he withdrew from the SPD presidency, Schröder also lost the chancellorship.

The party was in an “emotional transition phase”

This is another reason why Merkel had a lot to explain when she herself announced her withdrawal from the party leadership on October 29, 2018. “It’s a risk, no question,” she admitted at the time. And Merz sees it that way too. “The ship has been in heavy seas since that day,” he says of his party. “We received confirmation on September 26 at 6 p.m. that the transition that was triggered in 2018 did not work.” Since then, the CDU has been in “an emotional transition phase”. Merz now wants to end this phase – with both offices in his hands.

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