The National Party Congress of the ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Germany will be held online from 15 to 16. The most important agenda is to elect the new party chairman. According to the current political situation in Germany, the new CDU president is likely to succeed Merkel as the next Chancellor of Germany.
Succession process is repeated
At the end of October 2018, Merkel, who is in her fourth term as prime minister, announced that she would no longer seek re-election as the chairman of the CDU and would not run for federal prime minister in the future. The CDU thus began the process of leadership alternation.
Originally, after Kramp-Karenbauer, supported by Merkel, was elected as the chairman of the party at the CDU National Party Congress in December 2018, the party shift should have ended, but Kramp-Karenbauer announced his resignation as party chairman in February 2020 due to the disturbance of the governor election in Thuringia, resulting in The problem of succession reappears.
Germany will hold elections for the Bundestag in September this year. According to the poll, the support rate of the CDU is currently above 35%, ranking first, 17 percentage points higher than the second Green Party. If nothing unexpected, CDU will maintain its status as the largest party in Parliament after the election of the Bundestag.
In accordance with the tradition of the CDU, the chairman of the party is also the party’s prime minister candidate. According to Germany’s political system, the largest party in the Bundestag will take the lead in forming a cabinet, and its candidate for prime minister will become the new prime minister. Therefore, the new chairman of the CDU party congress will likely become the new Chancellor of Germany after the election of the Bundestag.
Three popular candidates
The chairman of the CDU Party currently has three popular candidates, namely Amin Raschet, Friedrich Mertz and Norbert Letgen.
Raschet is 59 years old and is currently the governor of North Rhine-Westphalia (North Wales), a large population and industrial state. The German media commented on him as the “middle way”. Raschet’s policy is not much different from Merkel’s.
He once supported Merkel’s decision to admit refugees during the European refugee crisis, and he himself said that he would maintain the continuity of the policy. However, Raschet is considered to have performed poorly in response to the COVID-19 epidemic in North Wales, especially the restrictions were not strong enough in the early stage of the outbreak.
At the age of 65, Mertz is a lawyer and is the second candidate for party chairman. He served as the group chairman of the Union Party of the Christian Social Union (CDP) and its sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) in the Bundestag. After disagreement with Merkel, he went into business in 2009 and returned to politics soon after Merkel announced that she would retire.
Mertz attracted the support of some of the more conservative members of the CDU with conservative remarks, and the attitude towards him in the party is more polarized.
At the age of 55, Retgen was a former German environment minister. After that, he was criticized by Merkel for leading the CDU in the defeat in the North Wales parliamentary election in 2012, and was later removed from the post of environment minister.
He served as the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Bundestag in 2014 and has served ever since. Retgen is an environmentalist in his youthful and reformed image.
Who can stand out?
The poll shows that the support rate of the three popular candidates is very close at present, with Mertz at 29% and 25% for the other two. Among the economic elite, Mertz has a higher lead in approval rating, while at the top of politics, Raschet is relatively more popular.
Public opinion believes that given the small gap in support among the three, the election should be held in two rounds. The person with the lowest number of votes in the first round will be eliminated, and the final winner will be decided in the second round.
According to the agenda of the party congress, the election of the new chairman is scheduled for the 16th, but because it is held online, some representatives will vote by mail, so the final result will be announced on the 22nd.
However, all three candidates said that they would accept the results of online voting, because they thought that if they lost the online voting, no one would vote for them by mail. This statement means that the election results may be known on the 16th.
However, the development of the situation has brought new possibilities, and the new chairman of the CDU does not necessarily become a candidate for prime minister. Mertz and Retgen said that the candidate for prime minister may also come from the CDU. Marcus Zedd, chairman of the CSU and Governor of Bavaria, took tough measures to control the epidemic, and his performance was very eye-catching.
Some polls show that his support as the prime minister candidate is high, second only to Merkel. Some analysts believe that although Zedd said he would stay in Bavaria in the summer of 2020, he is likely to be moved if he really has a more attractive prime ministership.
In addition, German Health Minister Jens Spahn, who has performed well in the epidemic, is also considering running for the post of Chancellor on behalf of the CDU. The 40-year-old Spahn made no secret of his ambitions to become prime minister, but he still supports Raschet.