Berlin (dpa) – There are major construction sites facing Armin Laschet as the new CDU boss.
It is quite possible that the largest of them will stand as the proverbial white elephant in the virtual conference room when the party’s newly elected top bodies gather for their constituent meetings this Monday morning. The presidency meets first, the closest circle of leaders around the chairman, and then the larger presidency. What will the mood be like after the tight decision at the online party conference on January 16?
In addition to his duties as Prime Minister of the most populous state and the fight against the corona pandemic, 59-year-old Laschet still faces a number of challenges. An overview:
– The FM question: In the final postal vote, with more than 80 percent approval, Laschet still received broad support. But can he integrate Friedrich Merz (abbreviation: FM) – darling of the economic wing and many conservatives – who is just inferior in the battle for party leadership, and prevent a split in the CDU at the start of the super election year?
Merz himself had deceived many supporters when he demanded from Laschet at the party congress that Laschet would ensure that Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) would bring him into the cabinet as Minister of Economy. It is well known that Merkel and Merz share a deep dislike.
The 65-year-old Merz then announced that he wanted to help win the next election. But the question is still open: in what role? Merz had linked his offer of aid to the comment that “it would be possible without political office in the coming months.” Was that a sign with the fence post to Laschet to take him as an economic expert in a possible shadow cabinet, should the CDU boss actually become chancellor?
For Laschet, according to some in the party, such a step would pose a considerable risk, in addition to the chance to put the Merz camp to rest for the time being. He would have a man by his side who could take the cake on what was probably the main topic of the election campaign. Because as a result of the Corona crisis, the fight against unemployment and mass bankruptcies is likely to become the main topic of the election campaign. And Merz is known to consider itself to be the most competent expert on business matters.
Does that come in handy for Laschet? On the other hand, as Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, he has proven that he can take all wings of the party into the cabinet.
But it would also pose a risk to Merz if he were to seek a ministerial post. For if Laschet wins the federal election as Chancellor and could form a government, he would run into the problem of many politicians from his home state of North Rhine-Westphalia speculating in top positions. Too much for the taste of the other CDU regional associations. Laschet’s team partner, Minister of Health Jens Spahn, must once again hope for an important ministerial position. The same could be true of Norbert Röttgen, who had achieved respectable success in the struggle for party leadership and moved to the Presidium. He is said to be playing with the outside department.
More top CDU politicians are from North Rhine-Westphalia: Union party leader Ralph Brinkhaus, who is known to be keen to stay in this post. Or CDU general secretary Paul Ziemiak, who is likely to hold an important role under Laschet after organizing the leadership change in the CDU, which is being praised by all parties. A difficult task for Laschet – is there still room for Merz?
– Question K: Only after the state elections in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate, which are important to the CDU, will the union leaders decide who will run for chancellor – CSU boss Markus Söder and Laschet have indicated. They may take their time until after Easter, so until the beginning of April. So there is no acute pressure to act here for Laschet.
– The party: Laschet will have to decide very quickly how to adjust the party headquarters, the Adenauerhaus, to himself. How does he divide his duties as head of government in Düsseldorf and as party leader in Berlin? At the latest when the Corona crisis is over, many committee meetings should take place again – twice a month, as was the rule in the past. And Laschet should also be invited to group meetings or coalition committees. Commuting between Rhine and Spree will certainly be time-consuming for the new CDU chief.
– The election campaign: even Laschet’s predecessor Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer aimed to fill empty spaces in the CDU and connect them with people. After the pandemic in the nearly a year-long hangover did nothing for the party leadership, this task now ends up with Laschet. At the party conference he mentioned important topics: bringing economics and ecology together and promoting digitization. In addition, the social, education, Europe and the international – as a “team captain who leads and brings together” he described himself there.
Laschet will now probably consult with the party leadership on what the election campaign should look like. He has already given two tips: his application speech at the online party conference was remarkably often about trust. And during his appearances for the CDU in the campaigning state associations of Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate, Laschet announced a targeted election campaign over the weekend: against a red-red-green left alliance.
But the election campaign can only really start when it is clear who the candidate for chancellor will be: Laschet or the Bavarian Prime Minister Söder. But there is still plenty of time after Easter to plan the hot phase of the federal election campaign.