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The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is often mentioned together with its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), as they act as an association. The power struggles that shook both parties in the past and that have now, after the elections, become unusually fierce do not stop at the borders between the two parties. The reason is an unusual arrangement from the beginnings of the Federal Republic of Germany, according to which the CSU rules in the federal state of Bavaria, the CDU in the rest of Germany.
With this rule, it seems, it is now over, at least for the whole of Germany. In 2013, the CDU, together with its sister, won 41.5% of the vote and thus achieved an overwhelming election victory. In 2015, however, the refugee crisis came when Chancellor Angela Merkel, in breach of German and European law, opened the border for refugees, mainly from Syria and Afghanistan.
Even before that, Angela Merkel had cut back the conservative orientation of her party bit by bit by taking over positions of the Social Democrats or the Greens, as for example with the nuclear phase-out decided in 2011. The pattern was always the same. The left-green camp was particularly vocal about one issue, the Chancellor accepted these demands, which contradicted her own party, and the Bundestag parliamentary group and the party as a whole submitted to this decision.
Notorious is a phrase that Angela Merkel always used when she wanted to discredit opposition to her decisions from the outset. Her decisions are without alternative, she says, and objections are therefore illegitimate and even criminal.
But in 2015, the government had gone too far. The admission of hundreds of thousands of refugees led to a deep division in the German population, which increased further in the following years. A large part of the conservative voters turned away from the CDU and the association with the CSU ended up with only 32% in 2017, the worst election result in history so far.
Critical voices increased, but Angela Merkel, still the most popular politician in Germany, and her arbitrary decisions were still without alternative. Nonetheless, it was finally decided that she should first resign as party leader and was not to run again in the next elections in 2021. This opened the internal party war for the leadership position, still hidden by assurances of unity and continuity, but all the more violent behind the scenes.
The first victim was Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the new party leader who was considered a confidante of Angela Merkel. After continuous fire from the conservative camp, which was fed up, she finally announced her resignation after not even a year and a half. She received no support from her former mentor.
Angela Merkel had always avoided installing a successor and stuck to this policy. After all, she might say to herself, the crash of the CDU after her resignation means that she was without alternative and that she cannot simply be replaced. From her point of view, a weak successor proves that she herself is an extraordinary figure in world history.
The election of a new CDU party leader was delayed by the epidemic crisis. Again, the German government under Angela Merkel defied existing law and put extensive measures in place to restrict civil liberties under the pretext of combating an allegedly deadly epidemic.
The calculation was simple. On the one hand, the control of the citizens should be raised to a level not known since fascism 1933-45. Critical voices referring to the allegedly guaranteed freedom of expression were banned with the terse hint that it was not about opinions but about fake news. Demonstrations and rallies were restricted or banned entirely under the pretext of epidemic protection. If they did take place, their participants were discredited as right-wing extremists, conspiracy theorists and spreaders of fake news. In some federal states, critics were even threatened with admission to psychiatric clinics, i.e., detention for opponents of the regime through the back door and without charge and trial.
On the other hand, the government relied on the fear in the population, fuelled by scientists loyal to the government, who were supposed to get the majority of the people to voluntarily submit to the government’s control measures. And this calculation seemed to work, the CDU climbed inexorably upwards again in the polls.
But like every scam, this one too had reached the end of its credibility at some point. But although the dissatisfaction in the German population had increased, especially since the beginning of 2021, the CDU, together with the CSU, remained the strongest force in surveys despite some losses. The election of Armin Laschet as the new CDU chairman seemed to do nothing to change that.
Right from the start, however, the chairman of the CSU, Markus Söder, did not fail to tease the new chairman of the sister party in order to praise his own qualities. The whole thing was very subtle, so that you could never accuse him of direct attacks, but it was anything but secret. Should this result in damage to the sister party CDU and a loss of power in Berlin, the CSU did not care if it could only secure its own crumbling power in Bavaria.
The conservatives within the CDU also attacked their new party leader incessantly and, in interviews, contributions and speeches, got never tired of criticizing his weakness and lack of content. Instead of gathering behind the chairman and fighting together for a good election result, the inner-party climate was poisoned and the party’s external reputation was significantly damaged.
A similar process had taken place about eight years earlier in the Free Democratic Party (FDP), which had led to the almost complete destruction of this party. Nevertheless, the careerists in the CDU accepted to weaken their own party decisively in order to promote their own careers.
That seemed to work reasonably well until July 2021, about two months before the election. With brief interruptions, the CDU asserted itself as the sure front runner and a new federal government without the participation of the CDU seemed impossible. Then, however, the dams broke almost overnight. The unpopularity of the CDU chancellor candidate Armin Laschet, persuaded by the MSM, the constant fire from within its own and its sister party, dissatisfaction with the alleged epidemic protection measures and the existence of an apparently lesser evil in the form of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and its candidate Olaf Scholz finally crashed the CDU.
Although the party was able to recover a bit, in the elections combined with the CSU it ended up in second place only, with 24.1%, by far the worst election result in their history. With that, Armin Laschet’s dream of the Chancellery was finally shattered. However, despite the clear figures, he had apparently still not got the point and claimed that in the elections his party had been commissioned by the German people to form a government.
A failure of the negotiations between the SPD, FDP and the Greens and thus a chance for the CDU seems possible, but is not very likely. Armin Laschet had touted his CDU as a coalition partner with the argument that a weak CDU partner would be much better for the other parties than a strong SPD partner, because the weak CDU would be much more willing to compromise in order to stay in power. Such a level of self-humiliation seems almost inconceivable and left even the commentators of the MSM speechless.
The power struggle within the CDU continues unchecked and is sometimes bizarre. There are several currents opposing each other, which are mostly not defined by differences in content, but only by the question of which aspirants for the party leadership they gather behind.
Friedrich Merz, who failed decades ago against Angela Merkel and then again against her two successors, seems to have the best chances at the moment. He portrays himself as conservative and allegedly wants to lead the party back to conservatism. In practice, however, he does not mess with the left-green decisions from the Angela Merkel era and even opposes genuinely conservative opinions such as those of the former head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Hans-Georg Maaßen. This also applies to Norbert Röttgen, who was also side-lined by Angela Merkel years ago and who is now trying to make a name for himself as the party’s innovator.
The CDU has alienated itself from its conservative core electorate and will no longer represent their interests for the foreseeable future. This betrayal, along with the current quarrel, is the cause of its weakness. At the moment it doesn’t look like anything will change in the short term. But even if you have to look for it, system parties like the CDU or the SPD are fortunately not without alternative in Germany.
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