STUTTGART / MAINZ (dpa-AFX) – Armin Laschet looks more aggressive than a week ago. This time he does not take out his father’s lucky miner coin, as he did at the federal party conference. But he hands out a lot when he speaks to his party colleagues in Baden-Württemberg at the weekend. He complains about the political opponent and warns of a red-red-green federal government. He speaks of unleashing and thus refers to the motto of the election program with which the Southwest CDU wants to go into the state election. Laschet talks extensively about family businesses and medium-sized businesses, he criticizes regulations and bureaucracy. He can also do business, so the message. Laschet gives the Merz. At his first big appearance as CDU federal chairman, he himself seems somehow unleashed.
Only on Friday was the North Rhine-Westphalian Prime Minister officially confirmed as the new CDU Federal Head by postal vote. On Saturday he will tour the southwest of the republic in his new office. Because in Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Württemberg there are state elections on March 14th. The CDU regional associations adopt their election programs at digital party conferences.
Laschet first visits the CDU in Rhineland-Palatinate – and pats himself on the shoulder there. The approval of 83 percent for the postal vote is “very remarkable”, he says at the program party conference of the Rhineland-Palatinate CDU. “There were three …, so two great candidates – and I think I’m pretty good too,” he says and gets laughter for the bumpy sentence.
In addition to Laschet, the Rhineland-Palatinate top candidate Christian Baldauf is in front of the camera in a fairly empty studio. He gives a rather wooden speech. In the predominantly Catholic country, the CDU seemed to have a subscription to the State Chancellery until the end of the 1980s. With Prime Ministers such as Helmut Kohl and Bernhard Vogel, the state party was firmly anchored in federal politics before violent internal party quarrels contributed to the fact that the CDU was sent into the opposition 30 years ago.
“We feel the tailwind from Berlin,” Baldauf told the German press agency. The state party is happy that the question of the federal chairmanship has now been resolved. Armin Laschet broadcast that he could bring people together. “The CDU needs this ability to be close in order to move into the super election year as a modern people’s party.” Just as he replaced red-green in the Düsseldorf State Chancellery in 2017, Baldauf can now also do this in Mainz, says Laschet.
Then Laschet goes to Stuttgart, to the Southwest CDU. The traditionally conservative state association provided the head of government in Baden-Württemberg for many decades. Since 2016, the CDU has governed as a junior partner in a coalition with the Greens under Winfried Kretschmann’s leadership. With top candidate Susanne Eisenmann, who is also fighting for open schools as minister of education in the Corona crisis, the party wants to find its old strength. But Kretschmann is way ahead in terms of popularity, also because he has been fishing successfully for years in the CDU’s conservative clientele.
The southwest CDU is considered to be the stronghold of the “Fans of Friedrich”, many drummed in the country in the fight for the CDU national chairmanship for Merz. Laschet is therefore making a real effort in Stuttgart to make the conservatives and business liberals an offer. “I’m also a Friedrich Merz fan,” he says. CDU need Merz and those who would have supported him. The speech arrives in the southwest. “It was celebrated by those who wanted to prevent it,” says one official.
Laschet can use any support in his new office. Difficult times are ahead for the 59-year-old. He won the runoff election against Merz at the federal party conference by just 55 votes. The party is still divided. Laschet has to take the Merz trailers with him. He must stand out in the shadow of an all-powerful chancellor. In the uncontrollable dynamic of a historical pandemic, he must rule a federal state as smoothly as possible.
And Laschet has to prevail against CSU chief Markus Söder in the power struggle for the candidacy for chancellor. Even if Söder has not yet publicly claimed the office and Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) Laschet has already described Laschet as a “natural candidate for Chancellor” in “Bild am Sonntag” – the race is far from settled.
The two state elections are considered the first test of mood for the new CDU boss. But it will be difficult for the CDU in both countries. Laschet’s future depends on two top candidates, of all people, who will have a very difficult time against the popular incumbent Malu Dreyer (SPD) and Winfried Kretschmann (Greens).
Laschet knows that too. When asked whether he would have to cede his candidacy for chancellor to Söder if the elections in the two countries did not end so well, he told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: “Markus Söder has made it clear that these are state elections with their own concepts and own top candidates. “/ poi / DP / edh