The third time was the charm. Friedrich Merz will be the next president of the German Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the party of former Chancellor Angela Merkel. The politician, belonging to the right wing of the conservative formation, won with 62.1% of the votes cast by almost two thirds of the 400,000 Christian Democratic militants , as announced this Friday by the general secretary of the CDU, Paul Zemiak.
Merz thus clearly prevailed over the other two candidates: Federal Deputy Norbert Röttgen – specialist in foreign policy that received 25.8% of the votes – and the former Minister of the Chancellery, Helge Braun, a figure close to Merkel – who obtained 12.1% -. The result has yet to be confirmed in a digital conference scheduled for next January 21 and 22 in which 1,001 delegates will participate. This last step is considered, however, a mere formality. It is the first time that the CDU has consulted its bases on the election of its presidency before holding a congress to decide on the matter.
It was the third time that Merz tried to seize power within the CDU. In 2018 he failed against Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the one chosen by Merkel who ended up succumbing in her attempt to keep the CDU on the centrist path; In 2020, Merz lost to Armin Laschet. With the latter in charge, the Christian Democrats obtained their worst historical result in a federal election. That electoral debacle definitely forced Laschet to throw in the towel. The former candidate for chancellor will remain in the Bundestag, but only as one more deputy.
Opposition and reconstruction
“ This party is alive and wants to contribute to reforming this country, “said Merz after learning of his victory in the Konrad-Adenauer-Haus, the CDU headquarters in Berlin. “We have a mission, now also in the opposition. The voters have given us a commission, we will have to fulfill it in the Bundestag ”, added the 66-year-old lawyer with a long career linked to the world of finance.
Merz now has the difficult task of bridging the gap between the most right wing , to which he belongs, and the most centrist, to which the last three party presidencies – Merkel, Kramp-Karrenbauer and Laschet – belong. For now, he has already received the support of the president of the CSU, the Bavarian sister formation of the CDU: “Together and united we want to lead the Union towards a new force,” wrote Markus Söder on his Twitter channel.
Merz's more right-wing profile matches better with the positions more conservative of the Bavarian Social Christians. His arrival could ease relations between the CDU and the CSU, marked by tension during Laschet's presidency and the last electoral campaign. The Bavarian Prime Minister, Söder, in fact tried to the end to be the CDU-CSU's candidate for chancellor instead of Laschet.
The future Christian Democrat president recognizes that his party will need some time to rebuild internally and once again choose to occupy the chancellery. Merz wants, for the moment, to offer a constructive opposition to the recently started Traffic Light Coalition with the Social Democrat Olaf Scholz as Federal Chancellor.
Merz's supporters hope it will turn the party toward positions more clearly to the right from which the CDU drifted away during Merkel's nearly two decades at the helm. In the air it remains if the CDU will assume certain positions of the extreme right of Alternative for Germany (AfD) on issues such as migration or internal security to try to recover lost voters on the right flank of the electorate.