"He is the base’s preferred candidate"

Who will succeed Armin Laschet? And how will the CDU be fit for the future? Political scientist Albrecht von Lucke predicts a difficult process – and sees a favorite for the chief position.

Where are you going with the CDU? This question concerns not only the party itself, but the whole political landscape. Armin Laschet is still the CDU boss, but he has already announced his retirement. The party now wants to have all top posts re-elected, including the post of chairman. All of this should work by consensus.

Political scientist Albrecht von Lucke expects a difficult process. If the CDU wants a quick decision, there is actually only one politician to choose from. A conversation about the fronts on which the CDU now has to fight.

t-online: Mr. von Lucke, the CDU wants to completely reorganize its party leadership – from the presidium to the chairmanship – and that by consensus. Can it work?

Albrecht von Lucke: The idea that this time around, that you won’t quarrel or split up into fight candidates is a great illusion. In fact, it is about a single relevant and decisive post, that of the party leader. Because the new chairman will not miss taking over the chairmanship of the parliamentary group. And so it is also about a preliminary decision on who will hand over the next candidate for chancellor. This question of power must now be clarified. A consensus like the one still-party leader Armin Laschet is striving for is doomed to failure.

Which currents are now competing with each other?

In the CDU, one can no longer speak of clearly defined classical trends. In this respect, too, the CDU has been gutted in terms of content. That is certainly also a legacy of the Merkel era and now part of the problem: the individual people largely stand and act for themselves, they compete against each other as solitaires. To name the main protagonists who are most vehemently fighting for party leadership: Friedrich Merz, Jens Spahn, Norbert Röttgen, Ralph Brinkhaus and perhaps Carsten Linnemann.

There is not much time left to clarify this question. In spring, elections will take place in Saarland, Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia, where the CDU is currently the prime minister.

As a matter of fact. That is why the CDU is in a real dilemma. On the one hand, it wants to carry out the renewal with as many new heads as possible. However, people who are still unknown and do not have a profile carry the enormous risk that the party will not be powerful enough in the upcoming election campaigns. So the party is caught in the time trap and that is not the only problem.

What other problems do you see?

The CDU is fighting on three fronts. Firstly, within the Union against the CSU, of which it is driven. Markus Söder’s attacks against Armin Laschet in the election campaign were disastrous, and the CDU now has to assert itself more strongly against his party. Second, it has to make a name for itself against the FDP. The Union has to be extremely careful that the economic competence attributed to it by many voters is not taken away by the FDP – as the alleged voice of economic reason in the coalition. And last but not least, as the opposition, it has to stand up to the new government under Olaf Scholz. I assume that the traffic light coalition will come about before the end of this year. Then the Union must be able to act immediately. But that will be almost impossible because the CDU now also wants to include the grassroots.

Albrecht von Lucke: “To a certain extent, the CDU is looking for an egg-laying woolly milk pig” (Source: Eventexpress / imago images)
About the person: Albrecht von Lucke is a lawyer, political scientist and journalist, among other things he writes as editor of the monthly magazine “Sheets for German and International Politics”.

A conference with all district chairmen has now been called for the end of October to clarify whether and how the grassroots will be involved.

Many voices in the party are pushing for grassroots participation; the CDU will hardly get around that. In the first ballot, however, an absolute majority is almost never achieved, then a run-off vote is required. It takes a lot of time. So this conference will play an important role. There it will be shown whether there is already a position for a favorite.

I believe that it could already run towards Friedrich Merz, who is already considered the preferred candidate of the base. If the other candidates then have an understanding, the party could actually come to the conclusion in a few weeks that it would decide in favor of Merz. This is the only way I can see how I can get out of a lengthy decision-making process. However, given the ambitions of the competition, there is not much to be said for it.

Merz doesn’t necessarily stand for renewal.

Not that, but it stands for the mobilization of the grassroots, for a clearly contoured conservative and neoliberal, business-friendly profile. He would also be on an equal footing with a Markus Söder or the FDP. A Carsten Linnemann certainly does not have this stand yet. Jens Spahn did not look good as health minister in the crisis, and many see him primarily as a careerist. Norbert Röttgen, on the other hand, is a solitaire in the party, without his own network, and cannot really inspire the base. I think Brinkhaus is a clever, rhetorically gifted politician, he would certainly also be a good leader of the opposition. However, he is rather unknown to the general public and is not undisputed in his group. But if it comes down to a two-man duel, I would suspect it between Merz and Brinkhaus.

The CDU has lost massive votes to the SPD, in the east many direct mandates to the AfD. Getting them back now will be quite a balancing act.

In a sense, the CDU is looking for the famous egg-laying woolly milk sow here. In the East, on the one hand, the claim against the AfD is extremely important, which is why the state associations are pushing for a sharper profile. That is why Merz is so popular there, Laschet was considered much too soft in its arbitrariness. On the other hand, the CDU must also recapture the center, which ticks much more ecologically today than it did a few years ago. The CDU currently has a large vacancy. In order not to lose touch, someone like Merz would have to become a bit softer and more connectable.

Called?

He will no longer be able to be as ignorant of climate policy as he was a year or two ago when he dealt powerfully against Fridays for Future and Greta Thunberg. That seemed downright arrogant and is not a gesture with which an opposition politician of 24 percent should appear if he wants to expand the vote base, especially among the younger ones.

Is that enough to steal the votes from the SPD again?

One certainly cannot expect that the party leader can cover everything. This does not apply to any of the candidates anyway. So it will also depend on the team that surrounds the new party leader.

This is where the CSU comes into play again: Markus Söder took up climate issues in Bavaria some time ago and tried to position himself more in the ecological middle.

Söder has indeed managed to demonstrate technological progress in an ecological guise. Merz alone would take a long time to get there. That is why the CDU has to cut a slice of paper overall.

You have already said that the allegation against the CSU is one of the three great battles. Party leader Söder was also almost over-present in the CDU.

With a CSU that is so self-confident, even aggressive towards its larger sister party, you need a strong CDU chairman who makes it clear: We will not allow ourselves to be undermined here. That is why Friedrich Merz attacked Markus Söder sharply after the election defeat. However, it has to be said that Söder lost a lot of sympathy during the election campaign. His attacks on Laschet revealed an astonishing lack of wickedness and character. In Bavaria, too, he is strongly attacked by the Junge Union because of his poor election results. As a precaution, he will not even take part in the upcoming JU Germany Day. The Söder Festival could be over until further notice. But all the more he will now rely on tough opposition to the traffic lights.

If the traffic light coalition actually comes about, the CDU will also have to play the role of the opposition. There she would then sit with the AfD and the left. How difficult is it to make a name for yourself there?

The demarcation from the AfD is the cardinal challenge. On the one hand, the CDU must represent conservative issues in order to take a few percentage points away from the AfD. On the other hand, it must not get too far into the realms of the AfD in order not to become too populist itself and thus alienate the center. But for a party that no longer knows what it actually stands for and is looking for its conservative core, that will be incredibly difficult. After sixteen years as the Chancellor’s electoral association, the CDU is not at all prepared for this enormous challenge.

Leave a Comment