Berlin He walks slowly through the corridor of the Münsterlandhalle towards the stage, nods to the left and right, greets the rhythmically clapping crowd, followed by cameras and microphones. Friedrich Merz is there, in Münster at the federal party conference of the Junge Union. “It’s a bit like two years ago – dear Friedrich Merz, welcome to your young union,” said JU boss Tilman Kuban.
The stage on which the Sauerlander is standing is bathed in a deep blue, only his jacket is even darker. “Dear Tilman,” Merz begins and flirts a little later, as both are new to the Bundestag: “I’m delighted that we are now working together in the young group of new members.” The father of three and grandfather of five was a member from 1994 to 2009 of the German Bundestag, from 2000 to 2002 even chairman of his Union parliamentary group and thus the last leader of the opposition since Angela Merkel. From October 26th he will be part of the opposition again, as a simple member of the 20th German Bundestag. First of all.
The Junge Union has a plan for a fresh start
Will Merz run again as CDU chairman, supported by boys like 34-year-old Kuban? In 2018 he was just as close as possible to Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer; this year similarly close to Armin Laschet.
The Junge Union has drawn up a plan for a “new beginning”. They demand better communication, clear messages, clear edges, a clear candidate. The members should elect the new party leader, not the functionaries. Anything else would “tear the party apart,” the boys are certain.
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Friedrich Merz likes to hear something like that. He embodies the conservative and pure economics like no other. And he knows how popular he is with the members. No wonder that he also emphasizes his conservative core when it comes to the offspring. He speaks of the “Christian image of man”, of fair dealings with one another. He emphasizes “freedom and personal responsibility” and rejects the right to vote from 16. He also speaks of religious freedom, whether the reputation of the muezzin in Germany is right.
The social market economy must again become the core of the CDU. It was “a program for the people” and must now be formulated ecologically. For the country he is calling for “a new generation contract”, as the Federal Constitutional Court wrote in the record book of climate protection policy. Merz also thinks this is correct for budget policy, for pensions. “The focus is not on personnel decisions,” he says. It’s about content. And that is exactly what he advertises with – for himself.
“The brush knows the corners”
Whether his almost 66 years are a hindrance? JU boss Tilmann Kuban says it is “time for new, fresh faces” and means your own JU ranks. He praised the decision by Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and Economics Minister Peter Altmaier to make room for younger politicians.
“Of course, new brooms sweep well,” says Merz that evening and also makes it clear: “But: the old brush knows the corners.” that the Union is needed, ”he demands. This is not only difficult because of the AfD. The SPD, the Greens and the FDP had written “a considerable document” as a traffic light exploratory paper, since the FDP had prevailed. Now the question is: “What are we actually still needed for? What can only we do that the others cannot? ”He wants to write an“ Agenda 2025 ”.
Because time is of the essence, Merz advocates clarifying “the open personnel management issue” this year. He is in favor of interviewing members, but quick. Then the federal party congress should make a final decision and the party should set the strategic guidelines at the beginning of 2022. The CDU and CSU should practice proper cooperation in a “Union Council”, just as Kuban proposed.
Merz is ready for a team – under certain conditions
Will he dare to run for a fight again? In the CDU they shy away from nothing more than several candidates, of which one or one only just prevails and the result reveals the deep rifts that have run through the party for years. Trenches that can only be closed with shared content and less with people. But the party does not want to take the time; it believes it simply cannot stand a phase of debate without strong leadership.
“Of course, it depends on who will lead the Union in the future,” explains Merz on this evening, but puts it into perspective: “It’s not about a person, it’s about a management team.” A delegate asks: “Everyone There are three things: Will you run again? ”The Junge Union is behind him. Merz answers.
“I have not yet decided this question for myself.” If there is a team in which there is a high degree of trust, which is loyal and secretive, then he will be happy to “get involved and also join in”. But after all the intrigues and power struggles, nobody believes in something like this at the moment – even if the party leader still wants to form exactly this team and leads many conversations: With Merz and also with those who will be on the JU stage in the next few days: Party vice-president Jens Spahn, parliamentary group leader Ralph Brinkhaus and middle-class politician Carsten Linnemann.
Perhaps the crisis is big enough by now. In any case, Merz gives a warning into the night: “The three letters CDU must be in the foreground and not I.” Otherwise the party will no longer be elected. It would be the end of the People’s Party, which has lost “over a third of our voters” since 2013, as Merz calculates. “The Union has thus become a politically difficult restructuring case at risk of insolvency”.
More: Who will be the new CDU chief? The party longs for a strong opposition leader