The truce lasted a long time. The three candidates for the CDU chairmanship – Armin Laschet, Friedrich Merz and Norbert Röttgen – have criticized each other from time to time. They have differentiated themselves in terms of content. And every now and then someone would place a tip against another. Normal sporting competition – somewhere halfway between the “petting zoo” and the “soccer field” model. In any case, the “ruinous competition” feared by the incumbent party chairman Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer did not materialize. Not yet.
As of today, that could be different. There is a serious conflict in the CDU in all frankness.
“Cannot be justified with Corona”
At an early hour, Friedrich Merz announced in the “ARD morning magazine”: He was actually in favor of going through the CDU party congress on December 4th as planned. As a compromise, he had offered a digital party congress the day before during a conversation between the applicants and the top CDU leadership. If this does not take place, then “Corona can no longer be justified”. There are “parts of the party establishment that want to prevent” from becoming party chairman, Merz said in front of the camera. “Considerable parts”. Violent accusation .
Message Merz: Procedural tricks are used to prevent me from becoming CDU chairman. Only: Who does he mean by “parts of the establishment”? Party leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer? Chancellor Angela Merkel? Both? Other? Everyone who spoke out in favor of postponing the party congress? The accusation is so serious that Merz has to say who specifically or which group he is targeting with his suspicion.
Now poison comes into the competition
In any case, the candidate caused speechless amazement in CDU circles. Schleswig-Holstein’s Minister of Education, Karin Prien, expresses her amazement in the diplomatic words “Contenance is an indispensable basic skill for every top position in the CDU.”
This morning and this lunchtime it actually happened like Merz had suspected it: The Presidium – unanimously by the way – was in favor of canceling the party congress. The CDU board also soon agreed: In view of the dramatic worsening of the corona situation, the convention cannot take place on December 4th. The members agreed on an intermediate step: On December 14th, they want to take another look at what could be done and when and whether a digital party congress with online elections can be legally prepared.
Is Merz primarily aiming at Laschet?
In the meantime, Merz’s puzzling hint in the contest of candidates brings what they wanted to keep out of all: poison. The fact that the 64-year-old, also today, distanced himself more clearly from Merkel in a guest article in the “FAZ” indicates that Merz above all suspects the former rival of working against him. In an interview with Die Welt in the evening he first mentioned Laschet in particular. But then he argued: “It is no coincidence that rumors about a new, fourth candidate are spread over and over again. All three candidates are said to be torn and tired, then possibly to present a surprise candidate at the last second. ”
So that would be at least two intrigues. According to Merz, is Laschet now a perpetrator or a victim? At least for the time being, these two allegations together do not produce a logical picture.
The competition of the three applicants for the top position of the CDU has been going on since February. The wish that the crippling uncertainty may end is understandable. The process takes an excruciatingly long time. Only: Measured against what many – older people, for example, children or the self-employed, whose professional existence is at risk – have to put up with this crisis in particular, this appears to be a luxury problem.
In a situation in which new tightening of the Corona requirements are foreseeable, the CDU cannot continue planning its party congress as if nothing had happened. The Presidium and the Executive Board made the only justifiable decision. There is no reliable evidence for conspiracy tricks. (Perhaps Merz will be more specific tonight at his announced appearances in the “Heute-Journal” and in the “Tagesthemen”.) In any case, there is an acute danger of a mud fight today.
What Merz has to reproach himself for
Merz himself was only able to fuel the debate in the two top bodies of his party indirectly, from outside. He does not belong to the presidium or the board of directors. When he narrowly defeated Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer in the fight for party leadership two years ago, he was offered to be elected to the management team. But he renounced. If he had allowed himself to be held responsible back then, he could have exerted a direct influence on the vote today. So he can only blame one thing for not being part of the decision: himself.
For now, there is a very bad aftertaste after today. The hint that someone is working with improper means is not something you just say so loosely when you want to knock you out. Many have long seen the danger that the CDU will be split after the election of its new chairman. It has grown since today.