A.On July 2, 1979, the CDU / CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag passed the most questionable decision in its history. Those present at the time have long since retired, and many have already died. In memory literature, some describe their triumph, others try to mitigate their defeat. Only historians like the CDU researcher Hans-Peter Schwarz, who were not present, reveal the severity of the dispute. It is known as the “field battle” which “begins at 16.03 and ends at 11.23 pm”. During these hours, the focus was on the face of parliamentary group chairman Helmut Kohl – with the young political scientist’s question: How does he keep it up, how does he manage it?
What happened? In the spring, the CDU chairman Kohl realized that he had no prospect of being chosen unchallenged as the Union’s candidate for chancellor. Because the CSU chairman Franz Josef Strauss still resented his one-sided proclamation as candidate for chancellor four years earlier, and in addition, he considered him fundamentally unsuitable in terms of his “character and spirit”. At the same time, the survey figures for Kohl and for the Union parties were not good. So Kohl and the CDU leadership proposed the Lower Saxony Prime Minister Ernst Albrecht, who was petted in the media, as candidate for Chancellor. This annoyed Strauss twice, because he had no say in the matter.
In any case, as a former federal minister and elected Bavarian prime minister, he felt far superior to the newcomer. His advisors persuaded him to seek the Union’s candidacy for chancellor himself, and so it was announced. Now the two Union parties each had a candidate for chancellor – and no means of resolving the conflict. Actually, if the CSU claims the candidacy for chancellor, it should go to the Bundestag election separately. This, Kohl feared, carries the risk of the spread of a “fourth” federal party and competition between the CDU and CSU.
Word warfare lasted for hours
Since no party committee, no joint party congress of a federal party and a state party with federal political aspirations can resolve this conflict in a democratic manner, the CSU state group chairman Zimmermann came up with the idea of transferring the decision to the joint parliamentary group, according to Schwarz with reservations: “That falls Result in our favor, this will be welcomed; if it turns out negative, then you have to put it into perspective. ”How things would then have gone on, nobody knows, because in the parliamentary group after hours of debate the result was: 135 for Strauss, 102 for Albrecht.
The decisive factor was the multiple arguments of both CSU and CDU MPs, mostly referring to constituency moods and surveys, the voters demanded clear language, politics with edges and hardness, persuasiveness and steadfastness, so after all that, which the Strauss camp did not trust Albrecht or Kohl to do. Especially the otherwise loud MPs were convinced that most voters wanted to hear strong words. At least Strauss and Albrecht were absent; they owed that to their self-esteem. Anyone who listened there had to believe that the absolute majority of the Union in the coming federal elections would undoubtedly be attainable. In the end, however, Strauss only won 44.5 percent for the CDU and CSU, while Kohl had posted 48.6 percent four years earlier.
An inappropriate, nonsensical and unfair practice
After that, the two Union parties avoided such dishonest decision-making for four decades – most imaginatively Angela Merkel with her breakfast at Edmund Stoiber. The procedure now being considered by Strauss’s successor, Söder, is unsuitable, senseless and unfair.
Striving for a parliamentary group decision is unsuitable because it can end in two types of draw. The first would be a mathematical equality of votes, which could not be followed by a runoff election, but only a drawing of lots. About the candidate for chancellor! A second, now political, tie occurs if both parts of the parliamentary group remain closed. Then the rivals are thrown back on the status of their committee decisions. What should follow then?
The procedure is nonsensical because, disregarding the democratic majority, it aims solely to make the larger partner the loser. If the CDU prevails, it will be just as “patronizing” or even “overwhelming” in the eyes of the CSU as before. The procedure is justified only when the smaller partner splits the larger one and gains the upper hand.
The procedure is unfair because it is basically an invitation by the minority to the majority to withdraw loyalty from their candidate and / or chairman. It is particularly reprehensible that the initiative comes from the minority leader, who for his part knows that he is protected from such damage to his reputation by his “colleague”, because it does not help. The CSU insists, and calls for CDU MPs to disqualify their own candidates as inadequate in large numbers – which some actually do for a wide variety of reasons. At the same time, the party discipline prevents CSU MPs from blaming their candidates without exception. If the CSU chairmen had to reckon with some openly dissatisfied people in their own ranks, they would avoid parliamentary group decisions about themselves.
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