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Crisis in the CDU: Shaky Ground for the Centre-Right Post-Merkel?

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While the CDU in Germany elected their leader in January, its sister party in Bavaria, the CSU, is backing a different candidate for Chancellor in the Bundestag elections. What does this mean for the election, and how stable is the future of Merkel’s party? Amy Frith explains all.

 

The CDU, the Christian Democratic Union, is a long-running centre-right political party in Germany. Formed after the Second World War and leading the German Bundestag for more than 50 years, it has been one of the two most stable parties in German post-war politics. Their sister party is the CSU, the Christian Social Union, and together they form a union of Christian-democratic politics through an alliance.

When it was announced that Merkel was to step down as leader of the CDU in late 2018, there was a sense that the CDU may struggle to as strong as it was under her. The party is a powerhouse of German politics, yet through recent developments in the political scene as once-fringe groups gain ground (like the Green Party), this stability has been shaken and will only be heightened once Merkel’s almost two decade long governance comes to an end and a new chancellor is chosen.

Who are the two candidates and who is backing who?

In January 2021, Armin Laschet was elected the new leader of the CDU, having held a number of positions in local, state, federal and European politics. He lost the first round of voting by 0.51% of the vote to Fredrich Merz yet won the runoff with 52.79% of the vote. Laschet received the backing of the regional leaders of the CDU and as the leader of the dominant party in the alliance, he has better chance of being chosen.

Markus Söder, meanwhile, has the support of 70 CDU MPs and is more popular amongst the CDU voters. He is the Minister-President (leader) of the state of Bavaria and the leader of the CSU.

The CSU only runs in Bavaria, so this split in support in the Bundestag election shows the locality of politics in Germany. These issues within the party, especially during a pandemic ,do not look good for Laschet who has only been in the leadership role for 4 months. Instead of a quiet resolution which Laschet favoured, the CSU backed candidate, Söder, is not backing down. Many polls have shown that Söder is more popular than Laschet with a greater chance of winning. It comes after polls show support for the CDU shrinking, never seen before for the party.

YouGov found that only 12% of the German population were in favour of Laschet gaining the chancellorship compared to 46% for Söder.

What is affecting the polls?

There are many reasons why polling numbers for the CDU may have dropped, least surprising being the effectiveness of their response to the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccination programme. Söder has shown himself to be competent in handling crises and voters have shown their support for him because of this. The actions taken by the CDU over the past year will undoubtedly have an impact on the election later this year, and the growth of fractures within the leading party of German politics will only put doubts into minds of the voters and where they want the future of the country to go.

After the stability over the past 80 years of the CDU, the division is set to rock the foundations of the alliance; only time will tell who comes out on top and wins the backing of the parties in time for the election in September. With Laschet aiming for a small-scale discussion and resolution, politicians, commentators and voters alike will be keeping a close eye on how this internal crisis unfolds.

 

Header designed by Annabel Smith – Assistant Head of Design

Article edited by Connor Wade – Politics Editor

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Label Political Editor 2020-22

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