The CDU in Saxony-Anhalt wanted Söder and not Laschet as candidate for chancellor. After the state elections, she is threatened with a new debate about tolerance by the AfD. It should be judged by Friedrich Merz. Does it work out?
When the MDR recently published its survey on the state elections in Saxony-Anhalt on June 6th, Prime Minister Reiner Haseloff and other leading Christian Democrats in Magdeburg took a deep breath. The survey saw the CDU with 27 percent ahead of the AfD, which came to 20. It was the first survey after the end of the power struggle for the candidacy for chancellor between Markus Söder and Armin Laschet, which from the Union’s point of view sent positive signals: We can do it!
Haseloff’s CDU was one of the state associations of the Union that had clearly spoken out in favor of Söder. After the CDU member of the Bundestag Sepp Müller, a Saxony hitchhiker, tweeted that the Union was going “out of this necessary process” strengthened and would win with Laschet, countered Guido Heuer, who sits for the Christian Democrats in the Magdeburg state parliament: “Sepp, where are you getting from because this belief? ” He called the vote for Laschet “a catastrophe”. Heuer added ironically: “Thanks for the support from Berlin”.
No wonder, then, that the CDU state chairman, Sven Schulze, said with relief after the MDR survey became known that the citizens wanted “exclusively” Haseloff as head of government in the future and trusted the post “only him”. The goal of becoming the strongest force again, so that “without us it would not be possible to form a government”, “now seems within reach. That gives us a tailwind”.
The word “seems” makes it clear how insecure the Christian Democrats are. They have good reason to do so. According to Infratest dimap, the interviews for the survey took place between April 16 and 21. The vote in favor of Laschet fell on the night of April 20, so only a fraction was included in the result. Regardless, the Christian Democrats were on the downside. At the end of January they were 30 percent. But because the Greens doubled their result to eleven percent and the SPD was able to slightly increase it to twelve percent, a new edition of the Kenya coalition is possible. In addition, there are signs that the FDP will return to the state parliament, which could open up new options.
“We can live with that”
The MDR survey has only limited informative value because the decision in favor of Laschet was not priced in enough, explains Benjamin Höhne, deputy head of the Berlin Institute for Parliamentary Research. “What happens is completely open.” The political scientist thinks it is “even possible that the CDU will move towards the Left Party or that Haseloff will have to resign if the result is very bad and the call within the party for moving towards the AfD will be louder”.
The problem for the Christian Democrats in Saxony-Anhalt is that they have to handle the rather unloved Laschet with kid gloves in view of the federal election. “Laschet is interested in our topics”, quoted the MDR country chief Schulze – anything else would also be unusual. The attempt is made not to make the plea for Söder appear retrospectively not as a criticism of Laschet, but as a call for greater involvement of the grassroots. “I do not think that the decision will have a significantly negative effect in Saxony-Anhalt,” said Siegfried Borgwardt, the CDU parliamentary group leader in the state parliament, to the “Tagesspiegel”.
“Laschet was not my favorite. Now he’s a candidate for Chancellor. And he doesn’t get off that bad. The older generation, who are into reconciliation, thinks he is good,” explains the Bernburg CDU local politician Frank Wyszkowski, who is a candidate for the Bundestag. For Laschet speak that he won the NRW election and prevailed against Friedrich Merz in the struggle for the party chairmanship. “I do believe that the CDU is at 26 to 27 percent and can do even more. We can live with that.”
Nevertheless, the skepticism towards Laschet persists. An appeal came to him from Saxony-Anhalt to bring Friedrich Merz into his shadow cabinet, which promptly happened. Campaign appearances are planned for Merz and Söder, possibly together with Laschet. According to the state CDU, plans are still being made. She is again in a quandary: If she completely or largely dispenses with Laschet, she will have to answer questions about why she hardly or not at all involves him in the election campaign when he has what it takes to be Chancellor.
Debate about the relationship to the AfD would damage CDU nationwide
Söder announced support, which Laschet welcomed as “helpful”, since the “core question” is whether in Saxony-Anhalt “the extremes are so strong” that “no new government can be formed”. In the fight against the AfD, he and the CSU boss are “very close to each other,” emphasized the CDU chairman. He knows as well as Söder that any debate about a possible cooperation between his party and the AfD would weigh heavily on the federal election campaign. The CDU of Saxony-Anhalt had already led them. The deputy parliamentary group leaders in the state parliament, Lars-Jörn Zimmer and Ulrich Thomas – they are in third and fourth place after Haseloff and a party colleague – had presented a “memorandum” in June 2019 which said: “It must succeed again To reconcile the social with the national. “
“I doubt whether Merz really has the charisma to help the CDU,” says Höhne. The political scientist asks how close Merz is to the sensitivities of East Germans and what he knows about the concerns of the people of Saxony-Anhalt. “His involvement could even backfire.” The longing that is articulated with the call for Merz and Söder lacks a rational basis. Laschet stands for Merkel politics, but also for the Catholic Western CDU, to which there is hardly any reference in the east. “Bringing back AfD voters will not work that way.” The Christian Democrats in Saxony-Anhalt would feel the negative federal trend of the CDU, although they could hardly do anything for the vaccination debacle. “What speaks for the CDU is that the AfD cannot use the pandemic to mobilize and the Greens benefit less from the nationwide upswing in the east.”
Wyszkowski, a staunch opponent of any cooperation with the AfD, says: “Merz is not the panacea. With Haseloff, we have a strong Prime Minister who does everything to cope with the Corona crisis.” It is up to the CDU to win the election. You have to talk and listen to the people on site. “We need the courage to tell the truth, and we have to explain openly and honestly what went wrong and apologize for mistakes, as the Chancellor did,” said the local politician. “That works. We should have taken this path earlier and not just before the fear.”