On February the 10th of 2020, Annegret KRAMP-KARRENBAUER, strongly contested within her party for her “political blunders”, announced her resignation from the position of federal president of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which she had held since the 7th of December 2018. This was a difficult decision for Angela MERKEL, with whom she was close, because it ensured a certain political continuity amid the pressure from conservative branches within the party everyday more hostile to the legacy of the current Chancellor.
New elections are supposed to be held in the context of the 33rd party congress, mid January 2021 (the exact date is still unknown and is currently being debated within the CDU).
Insofar as the Chancellor is elected by an absolute majority of the members of the Bundestag on the proposal of the federal President, the head of the list of the party assuming the leadership of the majority has a significant change of winning this office.
The presidency of the party constitutes thus a strategic position, as the CDU is the main political force in Germany, alongside the Green Party (Die Grünen) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD).
It is interesting to note that all three candidates for the CDU Presidency come from the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), which is the largest German Land (23% of the country’s GDP) accommodating most of German industry around the Ruhr. Annegret KRAMP-KARRENBAUER, (as well as the Minister of Economy, Peter ALTMAIER), comes from Saarland, the smallest German Land, which is traditionally very europhile. The succession of the CDU federal presidency can thus be presented as a refocusing of Germany policy towards the interests of the most powerful industrial Länder, embodied by the NRW, the Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria. Nevertheless, the candidates have quite different profiles, which are definitely going to shape German politics and thus bring changes and novelty to the table, which makes this succession within the CDU a key event of European importance.
Originally from North Rhine-Westphalia, F. MERZ is a lobbyist and business lawyer (65 years old).
In addition to his functions as chairman of the supervisory boards of the Wepa Group and Konrad-Adenauer Airport Cologne/Bonn, Friedrich MERZ is currently vice-chairman of the economic council of the CDU.
He embodies the economic liberal and conservative wing of the CDU and opposes the policies pursued by Angela MERKEL. He advocates for the deregulation of the economy, privatisations and has repeatedly questioned the coherence of social services, especially for migrants.
His closeness with the business world is no secret.
Between 2016 and 2020, Friedrich MERZ was chairman of the supervisory board of the German branch of the world’s largest asset manager, BlackRock, for which he was responsible for the relations with important clients, authorities and government agencies in Germany. This controversial position created some criticism following the Cum-Ex scandal, when in October 2018 the international media revealed a 55 billion euro tax fraud in several European states, also involving BlackRock.
Although these fraudulent practices took place before Friedrich MERZ took office, if he were to become the president of the CDU, he would find himself involved in massive conflicts of interest as he would have to take action against his former employers. Also, the 2018 annual report shows that the company considerably increased the remuneration of the members of the supervisory board (494,000 euros compared to 35,000 euros in 2014 and 2015).
This possible conflict between economic and political interests echoes in France, with the resignation of Jean-Paul DELEVOYE from the position of High Commissioner for pension reform. He had in fact failed to declare his status as a volunteer administrator at IFPASS, as well as his involvement in obtaining the Legion of Honor by Jean-François CIRELLI, President of BlackRock France.
F. MERZ often highlights the relevance and importance of strengthening the German cultural values in society (Leitkultur), which he considers indispensable to be accepted by migrants for their integration. He also calls for tighter border controls.
While Friedrich MERZ appears favorite in current polls, he is also widely criticized for his clumsy media statements. When he was recently questioned about his position vis-à-vis a possible homosexual chancellor, his answer referred to pedophilia: the issue of sexual orientation would not be a subject of public discussion, as long as it respects the law and does not involve children. He states that his humor is misunderstood.
On the environmental front, he declares himself in favor of abandoning nuclear power, but considers that renewable energies will not be sufficient to meet the demand of electricity.
F.MERZ undoubtedly appears to be the leader of this “hard” liberal-conservative tendency, in favor of a policy more centered on German economic and social interests, including at the European level.
According to the national television channel ZDF, F.MERZ was already considered to be the most formidable competitor to the moderate candidate KRAMP-KARRENBAUER in 2018 (he had then obtained 48.25% of the votes in the second round). He can count on the votes of a slightly older male electorate, especially in Baden-Württemberg, but also on the support of the youth association of the CDU and the CSU (Junge Union).
Armin LASCHET is originally from North Rhine-Westphalia (59 years old) and worked as a journalist and lawyer after finishing his law studies. He is Catholic and has headed the Einhard-Verlag publishing house, which is attached to the Bishopric of Aachen.
He currently serves as Deputy Federal President of the CDU, Minister-President of North Rhine-Westphalia and Federal Plenipotentiary for Cultural Affairs.
Armin LASCHET presented his candidacy for the position of Federal President of the CDU on the 25th of February 2020. He aims to be candidate of the unification and hopes to unify all the wings of the CDU. Jens SPAHN, the rising star of the Conservatives and current Minister of Health, supports Armin LASCHET as Vice-President.
A. LASCHET represents the moderate liberal wing of the CDU and is in favor of a coalition with the Greens. He wishes to be in line with the policy pursued by Angela MERKEL, particularly in terms of migration policy.
He advocates for an active state policy in order to defend German industry, especially the automobile industry.
Although his qualities as manager of the health crisis have often been questioned and he has been particularly reproached for a lack of clear guidelines, the local elections in North Rhine-Westphalia were favorable to him.
According to current estimations, A. LASCHET enjoys the support of the largest CDU regional federation (that of North Rhine-Westphalia), but also of moderate CDU voters.
N. RÖTTGEN was born in North Rhine-Westphalia (55 years old) and worked as a lawyer. He is currently Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the German Bundestag.
Nobert RÖTTGEN represents the left wing of the CDU and stands against Angela MERKEL’s policy, especially in terms of European politics. Nobert RÖTTGEN is in favor of a coalition with the Greens. Moreover, without stating a name for the moment, Nobert RÖTTGEN would like a joint candidacy.
Nobert RÖTTGEN made foreign policy his main concern. He defends a hard line towards Russia and advocates for a greater international involvement of Germany.
The candidate aims at defending the principles of his country and his party. In particular, he supports the reception by all EU Member States of the refugees from Moria in a manner that respects human dignity. He also pushed for Germany to take in 5,000 additional refugees following the fire that destroyed the camp in Greece.
He is also critical of nuclear energy and has initiated the German withdrawal from nuclear power after the Fukushima accident in 2011.
He is known for being the second minister to have been dismissed by a chancellor following his electoral defeat in North Rhine-Westphalia in 2012.
According to current estimations, his chances of winning the elections are low. He is specifically criticized for following a political line too similar to that of LASCHET and does not have a reliable voter base within the CDU.
Degree in Political Science and European Law and in charge of the Berlin/EU coordination for the German Council Presidency