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Christian Democratic Union
(Christlich Demokratische Union--CDU)
Christian Social Union
(Christlich-Soziale Union--CSU)

Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union are collectively referred to as the "conservatives," but they're very different from Republicans in the United States. Despite the word Christian in party monikers, no one here calls for creationism to be taught in schools, even if the CSU in largely Catholic Bavaria does want to keep crucifixes on classroom walls.

Never before had Germany's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) done this badly in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate state-level elections. Gone are the days when both states were conservative heartlands that would regularly produce absolute majorities for the party. Now, the CDU has dipped below the 30% threshold in both states with results that are likely to inspire fear in many party members in view of the upcoming general elections in September 2021.

Following World War II, the Christian Democratic Union (Christlich Demokratische Union--CDU) was founded by a diverse group of Catholics and Protestants, businesspeople and trade unionists, and conservatives and moderates. The CDU was founded by men and women who wanted to shape the future of Germany in accordance with a Christian-based people's party after the fall of the Weimar Republic, the atrocities committed during the period of National Socialism and the communist rule after 1945.

Its membership included catholic, protestantevangelical Christians and men and women belonging to all regions and social classes. The CDU has conservative, liberal and Christian-social roots. The party espoused a Christian approach to politics and rejected both Nazism and communism. CDU members advocated conservative values and the benefits of a social market economy--that is, one combining capitalist practices and an extensive welfare system. Konrad Adenauer, the CDU's first leader and West Germany's first chancellor, envisioned the CDU as a conservative catchall party (Volkspartei ) that would attract a majority of the electorate.

The CDU is a national party except in the Land of Bavaria, where it is not active, in deference to its sister party, the Christian Social Union (Christlich-Soziale Union--CSU). Bavaria has the largest concentration of conservative, rural, Catholic voters, and the CSU has dominated politics there since 1957. The CSU was personified by its leader, Franz-Josef Strauss, until his death in 1988. By 1994 no clear heir to Strauss had emerged, but the CSU nonetheless retained its absolute majority in the Land election of September 1994.

Since October 2008, Horst Seehofer was party leader and Prime Minister of Bavaria. Seehofer had been a member of the CSU since 1971. The motto of the party chairman of the CSU, Horst Seehofer: "Politicians are there for the people, not the people for the politicians." Seehofer stressed: "I want to reinforce the freedom of citizens' rights and to expand when it comes to their lifestyle, their economic and volunteer work. And where it comes to law and order, to interest We will need a strong state."

Germany's population increased through unification, and thus it has become more difficult for the CSU to pass the 5 percent electoral threshold at the national level. However, the CSU performed strongly in the 1994 national election, garnering 7.3 percent of the vote. The CDU and the CSU form a single Fraktion in parliament, choose a common candidate for chancellor, and have always governed in coalition. Below the federal level, the two party organizations are entirely separate.

From 1949 until 1963, Adenauer and his CDU dominated German politics. At the time of the 1961 election, Adenauer was eighty-five years old, and the opposition SPD was gaining in popularity. Ludwig Erhard, a CDU member credited with engineering Germany's postwar economic miracle, succeeded Adenauer as chancellor in 1963 . An economic recession then hastened the end of the CDU/CSU's hold on power. November 1966 brought the creation of the Grand Coalition between the CDU/CSU and the SPD with Kurt Georg Kiesinger (CDU) as chancellor and Willy Brandt (SPD) as vice chancellor. The FDP was relegated to the opposition benches. After the 1969 election, the SPD formed a coalition with the FDP, leaving the CDU/CSU in opposition for the first time in West German history.

For thirteen years, the CDU/CSU waited to regain power. By the early 1980s, the CDU had adopted a new party program consisting of conservative economic policies, resembling those of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, and moderate social and foreign policies. Helmut Kohl, as leader of the CDU/CSU Fraktion in the Bundestag, was also rebuilding a political bridge to the FDP. In 1982, as West Germany's economy weakened, the liberal SPD and the economically conservative FDP could not settle on a package of economic remedies. The FDP chose to leave the coalition and form a new government with the CDU/CSU. The constructive vote of no-confidence was used successfully for the first time to unseat Helmut Schmidt as chancellor; Kohl replaced him. West Germans ratified this change through early elections called for March 1983.

By the late 1980s, the CDU/CSU was growing increasingly unpopular. The CDU/CSU was also facing a new challenge from the right in the form of a new extreme right party, the Republikaner. In a series of Land elections, the Republikaner successfully eroded some of the CDU/CSU's support. The collapse of the German Democratic Republic, however, provided Kohl with a historic opportunity to reverse the fortunes of his party. While most Germans reacted to the change in the geopolitical landscape with amazement, Kohl seized the moment and actively advocated early unification. The first, free, all-Germany election since November 1932 took place in December 1990. In essence, this election became a referendum on the process of unification; the CDU/CSU emerged victorious, with Kohl promising greater prosperity for all Germans. As the costs of unification, in economic, social, and psychological terms, became more apparent to both western and eastern Germans, the CDU began suffering setbacks in Land and local elections. Nonetheless, Chancellor Kohl was able to claim a narrow victory in the national election of October 1994. Kohl's governing coalition benefited from an increasingly positive economic outlook in Germany and from the fact that the opposition Social Democratic candidate, Rudolf Scharping, was seen by many as lackluster.

The organizational structure of the CDU is a product of the party's evolution. In its early years, the CDU was a loose collection of local groups. Over time, a weak national party emerged to complement the strong Land party organizations. In the early 1970s, the CDU built up its national organization to compete with the more tightly structured SPD. Membership and party income increased accordingly. The Federal Executive is the primary executive organ of the CDU. It consists of about sixty individuals, including the party chair (elected for two years), several deputy chairs, a general secretary, a treasurer, the CDU's main legislative representatives, and the leaders of the Land party organizations. Because the Federal Executive is too large and does not meet frequently, a smaller subset called the Presidium, composed of the highest ranking CDU officials, actually sets party policy and makes administrative decisions. Each Land except Bavaria, where the CSU is active, holds semiannual party congresses and has an executive committee. These party structures are primarily responsible for the selection of party candidates for Bundestag elections. Every two years, the CDU holds a full party congress of several hundred party activists. Kohl has served as national chairman of the CDU since 1973, headed the parliamentary Fraktion from 1976 until 1982, and continues to lead the party as chancellor. Kohl's single-handed management of the party has given him a political dominance within the CDU that only Adenauer surpassed.

The CDU maintains several auxiliary organizations designed to increase the party's attractiveness to particular societal groups and to represent their views within the party. CDU statutes list seven organizations representing youth, women, workers, business and industry, the middle class, municipal politics, and refugees. Other, unofficial groupings exist as well. The most powerful of the auxiliary organizations has traditionally been the one representing business and industry. Although these auxiliary organizations are legally autonomous from the CDU, a high percentage of their members are also members of the CDU.

Helmut Kohl served as chairman of the CDU from 1973 until the party's electoral defeat in 1998, when he was succeeded by Wolfgang Schaeuble; Schaeuble resigned in early 2000 as a result of a party financing scandal and was replaced by Angela Merkel. Edmund Stoiber took over the CSU chairmanship early in 1999. In the 1998 general election, the CDU polled 28.4% and the CSU 6.7% of the national vote.

The German Christian Democratic Union is a political center party. It relates to all persons of all types of levels and groups in the country. CDU policies are characterised by the Christian concept of mankind and the responsibilities to God. The Christian concept of mankind forms the CDU's ethical basis for responsible politics. The CDU, nevertheless, takes cognizance of the fact that no political program can be derived from any Christian faith. The CDU is open to any person who recognises the dignity, freedom and equality of all persons and accepts the guiding principles of political behavior which emanate from the former values.

Among the many earthquakes in Germany's political landscape triggered by the German election 24 September 2017 was the destruction of a decades-old dictum once uttered by the Christian Social Union's (CSU) most famed leader Franz Josef Strauss: "There must be no democratically legitimate party right of the CSU."

The devastating results for Germany's conservative parties seemed to show that the rise of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) as a populist far-right force across Germany had forever buried that notion. The CSU, Bavarian allies to Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) but traditionally a little more conservative, scored its lowest ever result, with just under 39 percent of the vote in its home state — over 10 percentage points down on 2013.

Aware that the conservatives lost many of their voters to the AfD, the leader of Merkel's Bavarian CSU allies, Horst Seehofer said that the CDU-CSU needed to close "an open flank to the right."

On 7–8 December 2018, the 31st Federal Congress of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) will take place in Hamburg, at which the conservatives will elect a new party leader. Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been heading the CDU since April 2000, after regular regional elections failed in October, said she would no longer run for office. At least ten people have announced their intention to nominate a candidate for the CDU chairman election. But we can already say that the current general secretary of the CDU, 56-year-old Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, former head of the parliamentary faction of the CDU / CSU bloc Friedrich Mertz (served in 2000-2002) and the Minister of Health of Germany Jens Shpan will be the main favorites.

Frederick Mertz - the 63-year-old politician and millionaire breathes in the back of the ACC and is considered the personification of the conservative core of the party. On the cover of the last issue of Der Spiegel, he was named "Business Class Anti-Merkel". If the current Chancellor moved the party to the left of the political spectrum, Merz always supported a more conservative agenda.

In 2002, he left the post of faction leader, in 2004, he left the CDU governing bodies, and in 2009 he finally moved to the private sector. He worked as a corporate lawyer, and also headed the supervisory board of the German division of BlackRock - one of the world's largest investment companies. Merz is popular with the business community and still has the support of influential party members, such as the Bundestag Chairman Wolfgang Schäuble.

He explained the suspension of his participation in political life with his disagreement with the too “social-democratic” course of Merkel. Merz announced his intention to run for the CDU head post as soon as it became known that the Chancellor would not go for a fifth term. Observers suggest that in the event of his victory, Merkel will not be able to hold the position of head of government until 2021. Despite mutual antipathy, Mertz promised, if necessary, to smooth corners in political relations with Merkel, guided by "responsibility for public policy." At the same time, he spoke in favor of limiting the number of chancellor terms - in his words, "we should not work for more than two terms", since "the tasks and responsibility of [the chancellor] require a lot of strength and energy."

Merz takes a tougher stance on migration. Recently, he suggested considering whether the right to asylum should be contained in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany (which caused a storm of criticism, including from party members, including the ACC). Merz did not understand and interview in which he refused to call himself a millionaire and said that he was a representative of the "middle class", although he received € 125,000 a year from BlackRock only. All these missteps ultimately only played into the hands of Kramp-Karrenbauer.

Jens Shpan - the enemy of migrants - before returning to the political horizon of Merz - was considered the main opponent of the Chancellor in the ranks of the Christian Democratic Union. A representative of the conservative wing of the party, he was one of the first to criticize Merkel as head of government and demanded the staffing of the CDU. He is an ardent opponent of the current migration policy of the German Cabinet of Ministers. There is no doubt that new faces will appear with him in the CDU, and the old-timers will most likely recede into the background.

The 38-year-old politician openly declared his unconventional orientation, that in a party like the CDU, which largely supports traditional values, is not something that goes without saying. After the German parliament legalized same-sex marriages in 2017, Shpan was married to journalist Daniel Funke. In general, as described by his magazine Stern, - "young, homosexual and conservative." It is possible that it will be primarily supported by the young members of the CDU, as well as representatives of the conservative wing of the party. And he probably will not like age centrists.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer [" AKK "] - "Crown Princess" Merkel - was born on August 9, 1962 in a Catholic family of a defectology teacher and a housewife in the city of Voelklingen in the federal state of Saar in the south-west of the Federal Republic of Germany. Her political career began in this region: in 1981 she joined the CDU, in 1999 she was elected to the Landtag (land parliament), and in 2000 she was appointed to the post of Interior Minister Saar, becoming the first woman in Germany to become land minister internal affairs. From 2011 to 2018, she headed the Saarland government, leading a three-party coalition, including the Free German Party (FDP) and the Greens. In 2018, on the personal initiative of Merkel, she was nominated and elected as general secretary. Married to a mining engineer, three children.

Krump-Karrenbauer is considered a close associate of Merkel, her actions are characterized by calmness and endurance inherent in the current chancellor. Many observers compare it with Merkel and even call it the "crown princess" of the Chancellor. She is considered to be a close ally of Angela Merkel, according to German media.

She is known for voicing concerns regarding giving full adoption rights to same-sex couples and has also argued against revising the definition of marriage to being simply "a long-term responsible partnership between two adults", claiming it could lead to demands to legalise marriages between close relatives, humans and animals, as well as polygamy.

German observers believe that Merkel as head of the Cabinet will be most comfortable with Kramp-Karrenbauer as chairman of the CDU. The latter shares Merkel’s position on many issues, including with regard to migration and social policies. Krump-Karrenbauer is able to unite various groups within the CDU, both conservative and liberal. However, its main weakness is precisely the proximity to Merkel. It is possible that the Christian Democrats for this reason alone will refuse to support her candidacy. The media calls Kramp-Karrenbauer AKK (after the first letters of the first and last names).

The close ally was elected 07 December 2018 to succeed German Chancellor Angela Merkel as the leader of the country's center-right Christian Democratic Union. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the party's current general secretary, narrowly defeated former Merkel rival Friedrich Merz 517 to 482 at a congress of the party in Hamburg. Merz sought to move the CDU further to the right. A third candidate, Health Minister Jens Spahn, an outspoken critic of Merkel's 2015 decision to welcome more than 1 million asylum-seekers to Germany, was eliminated in a first round of voting.

The win by the 56-year-old moderate signaled the party's preference for stability over dramatic change. Kramp-Karrenbauer is now tasked with trying to win back voters who have defected to the right and left. Kramp-Karrenbauer's win also was a much-needed victory for the legacy of Merkel, who was stepping down after 18 years as the party leader.

The woman widely seen as German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chosen successor will not lead her crisis-racked CDU party into upcoming elections. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, known as AKK, took over from Merkel as CDU chairwoman and presumed shoo-in for chancellor in 2018 but said she will not be a candidate for the chancellery. She made the surprise announcement 10 February 2020 after telling a crunch CDU meeting that the centre-right party had “an unresolved relationship” with the far-right AfD party and the far left. It comes after an election debacle in the state of Thuringia in which regional CDU lawmakers went rogue and voted in the same camp as MPs from the AfD to oust a far-left state premier. AKK will by the summer organise the process to find the (chancellor) candidate, further prepare the party for the future and then give up the leadership.

The CDU has been in turmoil ever since the Thuringia fiasco, which broke a political taboo in Germany where mainstream parties have always ruled out cooperating with the AfD. Merkel called the vote in Thuringia “unforgivable” and said the outcome “must be reversed”. While AKK rushed to the scene to try and convince CDU state lawmakers to back new elections, she left after hours of talks without bringing about a clear result, further calling into question her crumbling authority.

AKK had struggled through a series of scandals that have sowed doubt about her ability to lead the country effectively. She had been criticized for her crisis management, including keeping Thuringia's CDU in line of late, and her inability to unite the party behind her. Her calls for fresh state elections in Thuringia were largely ignored by the party there.

After Kramp-Karrenbauer pulled out of the race to succeed Angela Merkel in the next federal election, speculation was rife over who'll take over as CDU chief — and potentially chancellor.

Friedrich Merz, the former leader of the CDU/CSU grouping in the Bundestag, withdrew from frontline politics in 2009. He made a surprise comeback in 2018 when he joined the CDU leadership race, losing narrowly to AKK. Merz recently quit his post as chairman at BlackRock, the world's largest investment management firm, to "help the conservative party renew itself." He appeals to the CDU's conservative members. Members of an ultraconservative wing of the CDU came out in favor of Merz as party head.

Norbert Röttgen, the newest contender, served as environment minister under Merkel from 2009-2012. He now heads the Bundestag's foreign affairs committee. He designed Germany's energy transition plan and is seen as someone who could work with the Greens, the party polling second. He was also part of the "Pizza Connection," a group of CDU and Greens MPs that held meetings in the '90s and early 2000s.

Armin Laschet, a journalist and former European Parliament member, has headed Germany's most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia since 2017. The liberal-conservative is a Merkel supporter — and backed her in the 2015 refugee crisis. Another "Pizza Connection" member, he is known for being able to work with both the FDP and Greens, which may be the most likely coalition setup in the next government.

Jens Spahn, who is openly gay, is popular in the CDU's conservative wing. The 39-year-old entered the Bundestag in 2002 and became Germany's health minister in 2018. Spahn He opposes limited dual citizenship for young foreigners, criticized attempts to loosen laws on advertising abortions, and called for banning the burqa in public.

Peter Altmaier, known as "Merkel's bodyguard," has supported the chancellor's centrist policy platform on multiple fronts. Originally from Saarland, Altmaier first worked for the European Union before entering the Bundestag in 1994. The former environment minister turned economy minister is renowned for his kitchen diplomacy and being a stickler for policy detail.

Armin LaschetChancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right party on 16 January 2021 chose Armin Laschet, the pragmatic governor of Germany’s most populous state, as its new leader — sending a signal of continuity months before an election in which voters will decide who becomes the new chancellor. Laschet defeated Friedrich Merz, a conservative and one-time Merkel rival, at an online convention of the Christian Democratic Union. Laschet won 521 votes to Merz’s 466; a third candidate, prominent lawmaker Norbert Roettgen, was eliminated in a first round of voting.

The vote isn’t the final word on who will run as the center-right candidate for chancellor in Germany’s Sept. 26 election, but Laschet will either run for chancellor or will have a big say in who does. Merkel, who had been chancellor since 2005, announced in late 2018 that she wouldn’t seek a fifth term. She also stepped down from the CDU leadership. The decision ends an 11-month leadership limbo in Germany's strongest party after outgoing leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who had failed to impose her authority on the party, announced her resignation. A vote on her successor was delayed twice because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Laschet has been one of the CDU's five deputy federal chairmen since 2012. A Catholic from the Rhine region, he has always been a reliable partner to the respective party chairmen. Angela Merkel could depend on him as her deputy when she was party head until 2018, as could her successor Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. When Merkel faced strong opposition from parts of her party in the face of the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers in Germany since 2015, Laschet remained a faithful ally.

The CDU were licking their wounds after a defeat to Scholz's Social Democrats in September elections which saw Armin Laschet lead the party to the worst showing in its history. Merkel left office in 2021 after 16 years in power and was succeeded by Social Democrat Olaf Scholz at the helm of a three-way coalition with the Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats. Electoral defeat left the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) having to regroup.

Germany's Christian Democrats on 22 January 2022 elected Friedrich Merz, a critic of former Chancellor Angela Merkel, as their new leader by a huge majority. Members gave their strong backing to Merz, a 66-year-old on the traditional right of the party, after twice rejecting him in recent years. Merz, the only candidate standing, received the backing of 95 percent of 980 delegates at a virtual party congress and declared himself "deeply moved" to see the extent of their support. "We must be a strong opposition," said Merz as he targeted success in a slew of elections to regional assemblies slated this year.

He also took aim at Scholz, claiming the new chancellor should take a harder line both on Russia's ambitions in Ukraine and on making vaccination against Covid-19 obligatory. The new CDU helmsman is a long-time opponent of Merkel, their rivalry dating back 20 years. He first joined Germany's parliament in 1994, and even back then, he and former chancellor Angela Merkel stood for different camps within the conservative party. Merkel was supported by the younger party members, Merz was distinctly more traditionally conservative. He lost the battle to lead the party's strategically key post of chairman of the parliamentary group in 2002, and gave up his post in the party leadership in 2004. In 2009, Merz stepped away from politics to move into finance, becoming a multimillionaire, also taking on several influential roles within large companies -- he was notably an investment manager with Blackrock. He also worked as a commercial lawyer. The married Catholic father of three, who owns two aeroplanes and pilots one himself.

When Merkel announced in 2018 that she would step back as party chairwoman, Merz announced his candidacy — but lost to Merkel protégé Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. When she stepped aside following a series of gaffes, Merz took his chance again in early 2021 but had to concede to Armin Laschet, who then went on to lose in Germany's general election later that year.

Merz repeatedly stated his clear rejection of any cooperation between his party and the AfD. And he spoke out in favor of changing legislation to allow LGBTQ couples to adopt children. This clearly contradicts the earlier positions of the conservative politician. The message was clear: Merz wanted to win back young voters, many of whom had turned to the neoliberal Free Democrats (FDP) and the environmentalist Green Party in the September 2021 general election.

Merz is a staunch European and wants the bloc to be economically, financially and strategically assertive toward China, Russia and the US. Before joining Germany's federal parliament in 1994, he had been a lawmaker in the European Parliament for five years. And he has strong trans-Atlantic connections. In the past 10 years, nobody from the CDU leadership has been to the US more often than Merz, who says he is impressed by that country's economic liberalism.

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Page last modified: 08-03-2022 19:37:49 ZULU