Friedrich Merz starts work as new CDU chairman with a 95.33 percent vote of confidence as opposition leader.
"The CDU is there, we are ready to go," the 66-year-old economic politician said when announcing the postal vote results of the 1001 delegates after the online party conference just over a week ago. He added: "We are also ready to enter into the democratic opinion-forming process. With this federal government, elsewhere, with other."
The written vote was necessary for legal reasons. At the online meeting on 22. January Merz had come according to CDU calculation on 94.62 per cent. On 15. February he also wants to be elected chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag. His election is considered safe.
Merz received 837 of the 895 votes cast in the postal vote. There were 41 no votes and 17 abstentions. His Secretary General Mario Czaja received 94.24 percent in the postal vote – at the party conference it was 92.89 percent. The CDU traditionally counts abstentions as invalid votes. Including the abstentions, the percentage is somewhat lower.
The CDU has elected its complete new leadership. It drew the consequence from the Union’s worst ever result of 24.1 percent in the Bundestag election last September. In December, Merz had been elected with 62.1 percent in the first CDU member poll to succeed Armin Laschet, who had failed as a candidate for chancellor.
Merz: "self-confidence not lost"
Merz now stressed that he and Czaja knew what they were facing. "We are taking over the CDU in a difficult time." But: "We have not lost our self-confidence."Merz assured the CDU’s top candidates for the four state elections this year in Saarland, Schleswig-Holstein, North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony of "every support". Czaja announced that after voids had become clear in the election campaign, they wanted to quickly start working on the content and involve the base in the process.
Referring to CDU/CSU parliamentary group leader Ralph Brinkhaus (CDU), who had renounced a renewed candidacy in favor of Merz, the new chairman said that they had each had a personally good conversation on Tuesday and Wednesday evening. "I have assured him that we will of course think of him when we have tasks to distribute soon."Merz added, however: "We have at the moment no tasks to distribute. We are not in government. We are in opposition with limited options."
Merz emphasized: "I will also make use of his skills and manpower. We discussed this in a very collegial tone and with very good cooperation." He had told Brinkhaus "I want us to still be able to meet well the day after, to look each other in the eye. And so we also parted with a handshake on Wednesday evening and reaffirmed it on Thursday also with his letter so."
Merz faces major construction sites
With Brinkhaus’ withdrawal, the CDU is spared another power struggle before the state elections. If Merz has to declare defeats in the federal states just a few weeks after he has assumed all the power in the CDU as party and parliamentary group leader, this could scratch his image as an innovator. For a long time, Merz was considered one of the harshest critics of the policies of long-term Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU). Now he must deliver and show that he can do better.
Dealing with the AfD
Merz has announced here a clear course of demarcation from the right-wing populists of the AfD, as his predecessors had already done. Clearly this course became already, when the CDU point last week the chairman of the erzkonservativen value union, Max Otte, the member rights withdrew and an exclusion procedure initiated. The reason is that Otte is running for president on the AfD ticket. Otte has resigned from the chairmanship of the Werte-Union, which is not an official party branch, but has announced that he will fight for his CDU membership.
Relationship with CSU leader Soder
This Wednesday and Thursday, the CSU state group in the Bundestag meets in Berlin for its traditional New Year’s retreat. Merz as well as Soder are invited. It will be interesting to see how harmoniously the two strong men of the CDU/CSU get along with each other. The state elections could have a disciplining effect. For it is not only the CDU that faces important decisions. In Bavaria a new state parliament will be elected in 2023. A continuing sister dispute is likely to damage both the CDU and the CSU.
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