CDU in Weimar: The messed up exam – politics


In one’s own case one is often the mildest judge, which is even more true in political life than in private life. In this respect, Mario Czaja’s admission is astonishing. “We had gaps in content,” confessed the CDU general secretary on Saturday after a closed meeting of his party leadership. That is why we have now intensively discussed economic, energy and climate policy. It is about an urgently needed development of competence. However, the CDU federal board did not take much time for this: the exam in Weimar started on Friday evening – and by Saturday afternoon it was already over.

The problem is obvious: economic policy was once a hallmark of the CDU – today she only gets low approval ratings for it. The party has never received much praise for its climate policy. And the Union is not doing particularly well in general either: although the traffic light coalition stumbles from one problem to the next, according to the Politbarometer, only 21 percent of citizens say that the Union would govern better.

So it was not wrong that the CDU federal executive board now discussed economic and climate policy with experts like Clemens Fuest. But not much will remain of the exam, at least in terms of external effects. Because the party screwed up its exam itself in two respects.

The chairperson is primarily responsible for this. Frederick Merz started an integration debate with his “Kleine Paschas” appearance with Markus Lanz, which completely overshadowed the actual topics of the CDU retreat. In the hall itself there was no discussion at all, just two or three requests to speak, said Merz after the exam. But in the corridors, Lanz’s appearance was a topic. And the requests to speak in the hall had it all.

According to participants, the former CDU General Secretary Hermann Gröhe criticized Merz’s talk show appearance in a conciliatory tone, but clearly in substance. Gröhe took up a statement by Merz, who had asked not to speak of the “Failed State” Berlin, but only of the “Failed Senate” – so that no citizens were alienated in the Berlin election campaign, but only attacked the Senate with pinpoint accuracy. This example shows how important the right tone and precision are in a debate, said Gröhe. You also have to do that in the disputes integration and keep migration that way.

Gröhe is one of those on the CDU federal executive board who find that Merz once again made it difficult to address actual problems through an inappropriate choice of words and tonality. With his lawsuit about “social tourism,” Merz had already prevented a meaningful debate about the problems that actually existed in refugee policy. Serap Güler, the former Secretary of State for Integration in North Rhine-Westphalia, also demands that problems be addressed in such a way that there is no collateral damage. In Weimar, Güler therefore criticized the Berlin CDU, which wanted to know the first names of those involved in the New Year’s Eve riots.

But Gröhe and Güler were the exception with their assessment. Those who spoke to other participants in the exam often heard enthusiastic descriptions of how well Merz’s statements had been received by the base. We are therefore already looking forward to the next opinion polls.

Only occasionally was the question asked whether it was perhaps the CDU members who lived in a parallel world and didn’t even realize how disastrous the reactions to Merz’s statements outside the party were. It was said that even someone like the politics professor Carlo Masala, who is very much appreciated in the Union, reacted extremely outraged to Merz and the Berlin CDU. A member of the federal board summed up the whole situation in one sentence: “You can’t use shitty rhetoric to prevent real problems from being dealt with.”

Normally, a general secretary is also the cleaner for the party leader. In Weimar, it was therefore surprising to see how little Czaja defended Merz’s behavior. The Secretary General also made it clear that he did not consider the actions of the Berlin CDU to be helpful. Czaja is one of those who think that the Berlin CDU can even gain something by their tough demeanor in the upcoming election. But he also believes that the behavior of the Christian Democrats in Berlin has made them less able to connect – and that they will probably no longer have a chance of finding coalition partners.

In any case, it should be interesting to observe Czaja’s relationship with Merz in the coming weeks. Because in the integration debate, Secretary General Güler and Gröhe are obviously much closer than his party leader.

Confusion about the attitude of the CDU to new nuclear power plants

The fact that the Weimar debates on economic and climate policy received little attention was not only due to Lanz’s appearance. The CDU also blundered in the dispute over nuclear power plants. At exams like the one in Weimar, a “declaration” is always decided. These declarations do not emerge from the debate, but are prepared within the party – also to avoid unnecessary arguments. Before exams, the members of the federal executive board receive a draft for the respective declaration from the CDU headquarters – on which only bullet points are usually changed on the exam itself. Given this practice, what happened this time was amazing.

Because the draft for the Weimar Declaration said: “In the current situation, we need a policy that connects all available energy sources to the grid.” This also includes “the use of the nuclear power plants still on the grid until at least the end of 2024”. This corresponds to the previous party line. But then the half-sentence followed in the draft that “an unprejudiced examination of the construction of new nuclear power plants of the most modern generation” was also necessary. So does the CDU suddenly want to build new nuclear power plants?

So far she has denied it. In the Bundestag debate on the subject in mid-November, the speaker from the Union parliamentary group assured: “The phase-out of nuclear energy will remain the same”, only the operating times of the power plants still in existence should be extended until the end of 2024.

So there was immediate opposition to the draft of the Weimar Declaration. The construction of new nuclear power plants is “a no-go”, complained the CDU parliamentary group leader in the Baden-Württemberg state parliament, Manuel Hagel. Anyone who builds new nuclear power plants must also clarify where they should be and what happens to the nuclear waste. In addition, the new building will take more than a decade. His advice to the CDU federal board is therefore: “Leave your hands off it.”

In the statement decided in Weimar on Saturday, the sentence was suddenly missing. But who wrote it in the draft? Individual federal executive board members referred to the secretary general’s responsibility for such drafts, but Czaja didn’t want it to have been. It was said from those around him that the draft had been sent to the board members from the party chairman’s office. Friedrich Merz said after the exam that the draft had been sent “from the Adenauer House”. And the sentence about the nuclear power plants had been misunderstood. It didn’t look particularly professional.

The Merz press conference at the end of the exam also matched this. The CDU leader said he wanted to make it clear: “We are expressly not against the construction of new nuclear power plants.” Only when irritated journalists asked later did Merz realize that he had made a mistake and corrected: “We expressly do not support the construction of new nuclear power plants.”



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