Cooperation with the AfD? CDU boss faces headwind in his own party

Friedrich Merz probably did not expect this reaction. On Sunday, the chairman of the CDU explained in the ZDF “summer interview” that, if in doubt, his party would have to look for ways to cooperate with the Alternative for Germany (AfD) at the municipal level. Not all of his party colleagues seemed to agree – many CDU politicians publicly contradicted their leader.

The cooperation does not refer to legislative institutions, i.e. the European Parliament, the Bundestag and the state parliaments. “Local politics is something different than state and federal politics,” said Merz. If a mayor is elected in a district who belongs to the AfD, then it would be natural to look for ways to work together in this city.

Merz encountered strong opposition on social media, including from his own party. On Monday morning, Merz rowed back on Twitter: “I’ve never said it differently: the resolution of the CDU applies. There will also be no cooperation between the CDU and the AfD at the local level.”

Berlin’s governing mayor, Kai Wegner, tweeted on Sunday evening: “The AfD only knows opposition and division. Where should there be cooperation? The CDU cannot, will not and will not work with a party whose business model is hate, division and exclusion.”

Some party friends perceived Merz’s statements as breaking a taboo. A resolution of the 2018 party conference states: “The CDU in Germany rejects coalitions and similar forms of cooperation with both the Left Party and the Alternative for Germany.”

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A lot has changed in the CDU since then, including in communication. In a municipality in Saxony-Anhalt, the AfD provided a full-time mayor for the first time. At the end of June, Merz then declared the Greens to be the main political opponents. After the rise of the AfD in the election polls, Merz softened his attitude towards the party. The latest polls show nationwide record values ​​for the AfD of 20 to 22 percent. Most recently, an AfD district administrator was elected for the first time in Thuringia.

Merz also gets support from its own ranks

But Merz also receives approval. He gets support from the former Federal Minister of Agriculture Julia Klöckner, who praised Merz on Twitter after his interview for his “specific differentiation from the AfD”. What caused confusion in the comments: “Where is the demarcation when you approach the AfD at the municipal level?” Asked a user.

The new CDU General Secretary Carsten Linnemann also showed Merz his support. Although it is clear to him that there is “no cooperation with the AfD”, this can be unavoidable in some cases. “Because if the local parliament is about a new daycare center, we can’t just vote against it because the AfD votes,” explained Linnemann.

Meanwhile, the AfD is happy about the pragmatic course that Merz is taking and the crumbling of the clear demarcation to the outside right. AfD party leader Tino Chrupalla tweeted: “Now the first stones are falling out of the black-green firewall. In the federal states and the federal government, we will tear down the wall together.”

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