Friedrich Merz has finally achieved his goal. Saturday, January 22, this close to conservative and economic circles was confirmed at the head of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). A month after receiving the dubbing of the members of the party, this deputy from North Rhine Westphalia obtained the approval of the delegates during an online congress, organized from Hanover. After two unsuccessful attempts, Friedrich Merz becomes the third CDU chairman in three years.
In his candidacy speech, this Saturday, this slender 1.98m giant wanted to be offensive. “What happened in 2021 must not happen again and will not happen again,” he launched. 2021 has indeed marked a turning point for the largest Christian Democratic party in Europe, which found itself on the bench of the opposition, after the debacle of the legislative elections in September. A first in sixteen years.
The CDU, orphaned and weakened
Orphan of an Angela Merkel who left politics, the CDU is weakened by the extreme right and by disagreements with its Bavarian sister party, the CSU. It is also losing its bearings on the major issues of the moment, such as the fight against climate change.
At the Hanover Congress, Friedrich Merz identified several concrete missions to be carried out simultaneously. Among them, becoming a real opposition force at the national level and working on a new program. After years of disagreements with former Chancellor Angela Merkel, this specialist in international finance known for his individualism could give his party a sway to the right, but above all promises “a new start”, the reconciliation of current disputes and a real teamwork.
For those who did not support him, these messages go rather well but must be followed up. “He will try to bring together the conservatives and the liberals of the party”, foresees Silvio Crapis, member of the Young Christian Democrats of Cologne. “I hope he will get there even if he remains the face of the opposition to Angela Merkel”, he recalls, “skeptical”.
Between skepticism and confidence
In Dresden, the president of the young unionists, Johannes Schwenk, is also divided: “I expect Friedrich Merz to bring calm to the party and do a good job as opposition leader. It must also develop the CDU internally, place new faces, more women, facilitate the work of volunteers.. Johannes Schwenk, however, has some doubts. “Can we really expect a fresh start from a 66-year-old man who represents 1990s politics and who was elected in the majority by members over 50? There will be resistance to change. Keeping all his promises is going to be complicated. I will be happy if he moves a few lines,” he notes.
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In eastern Germany, where the CDU is suffering from strong competition from the far right, expectations are high in any case. “In the field, I see a very strong confidence in Friedrich Merz”, assures Mario Voigt, leader of the parliamentary group in Thuringia. “Its strength lies in the clarity of its message. He is not afraid to say things. He can be a chance for the CDU », he explains.
However, Friedrich Merz does not have much time ahead of him. In Hanover, he said he wanted the CDU to win in the four regional elections of 2022. In three of these Bundesländer, the CDU is in power. Defeats would be a bad omen.