Team for CDU chairmanship presented: Merz pushes in the middle

Team for CDU chairmanship presented
Merz pushes in the middle

From Volker Petersen

He is 66, but wants to be the innovator of the CDU: Friedrich Merz introduces his team in Berlin. Mario Czaja from Berlin is to become Secretary General, Christina Stumpp from Baden-Württemberg his deputy. A smart choice.

Prize question: What does Friedrich Merz stand for? Anyone who spontaneously thinks of the 90s CDU, supervisory boards and share prices should have been amazed in the afternoon. In Berlin, the 66-year-old presented his team with whom he would like to lead the party in the future. And then he said that for him the “most important issue par excellence” is social justice. Yes, indeed: For the hard-core conservative Merz, child poverty, the situation of families, the gap between rich and poor come first. This also moved him to go into politics again.

His candidate for the post of General Secretary also fitted in with this: Mario Czaja, a former Berlin Health and Social Senator who had provided one of the few good news within the party in the federal election. As the only CDU candidate nationwide, he had improved his first vote result and thus chased away Petra Pau’s Berlin constituency in Marzahn-Hellersdorf. And thus forced on for higher tasks. Especially since he is still relatively young at 46 and comes from East Germany, which has been underrepresented in the CDU since the end of the Merkel era at the latest.

It was a surprise that Merz had brought not only Czaja but also Christina Stumpp to the Estrel Hotel. The 34-year-old from Baden-Württemberg from Waiblingen is to become Deputy Secretary General. That would be new in the CDU, such a position has not existed before. She has just moved into the Bundestag and appeared next to Merz in jeans and a leather jacket. Which went well with the fact that the CDU should become “younger, more feminine and more modern,” as it demanded. According to Merz, she should also bring the perspective of cities and municipalities, because she has already gained a lot of experience at this level.

Group chair? Merz evades

That fitted in with the message from the Sauerland resident that in future the deputy party chairmen should occupy issues and thus give the party a face in terms of content. Merz welcomed the fact that Saxony’s Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer is considering running for a deputy position. “I want the East to be prominently represented,” said Merz. The CDU had lost a lot there in September and, apart from Czaja, only won eight direct mandates. The AfD scored twice as many.

Merz said he did not want to be a transitional chairman and did not rule out a candidate for chancellor. But he made it clear that the K question was not up for him now. Above all, however, he avoided the question of whether he also wanted to become chairman of the parliamentary group. The post is currently held by Ralph Brinkhaus, who was only elected until April. The question does not arise now, claimed Merz, although it is of course extremely exciting. His competitor for the party chairmanship, Norbert Röttgen, had expressed himself differently – he had said that Brinkhaus could remain leader of the parliamentary group. Somebody like Merz can be assumed to have a will to power. The fact that he leaves the question open indicates that he would like to take on the position. But whether he can prevail also depends on the result in December.

Then, for the first time in the history of the CDU, the party members will decide on the future boss. The three candidates have agreed that only the winner, who continues to formally have the last word, will stand at the party congress in January. “Finally”, many a Merz fan might have thought. Because with the previous procedure of letting party congress delegates decide, Merz has failed twice – once against Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, then in January of this year against Armin Laschet. It was always said that Merz was more popular at the grassroots level than at the higher party levels, which put the majority of delegates at party congresses. This is confirmed by the trend barometer from RTL and ntv. There 35 percent are in favor of Merz, 19 for Röttgen and only 8 for Braun. But that’s not a sure thing for Merz, because, as Röttgen rightly said last week, with a large number of the 400,000 party members, you don’t know who they really prefer.

Czaja a smart choice

In any case, what kind of offer the candidates make should play an important role. Röttgen tried indirectly to portray Merz as yesterday’s man and as too right-wing. That is exactly the image that attaches to the Sauerland. The latter tried to counteract this by expressly saying that there would be no shift to the right with him. The fact that he called social justice of all things the most important issue should counteract the impression that he is only interested in the executive suite. His predecessors, Laschet and AKK, tried it the same way, only the other way around. They were considered loyal to Merkel and therefore tried to charm the right wing and the Merz fans.

Merz’s choice for the general secretary is accordingly wise: Czaja compensates for several weaknesses that he himself has. He is not old, not West German and not old-conservative. With his electoral success and his experience as a Berlin senator, Czaja is also more prominent than Röttgen’s candidate Franziska Hoppermann. It also makes sense that Merz brought a young woman into the team in Stumpp. Because otherwise it would have been said quickly: The men will make it up again, typically CDU. The young mother from Waiblingen underlines Merz’s claim to renewal.

In any case, Merz did not show himself as the anti-Merkel who was reviving the old CDU. Röttgen did a similar thing. The former environment minister formulated his plans more specifically than Merz now and also has a clearer profile as a middle-class man. On the other hand, there is not much that divides the content. Both want to somehow make the CDU younger, more feminine and more modern. Both want the CDU to remain a people’s party and appeal to society as a whole. Helge Braun should promise something similar. The election will not be easy for the CDU members.

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