Dhe criticism of CDU leader Friedrich Merz for statements on how his party deals with the AfD at the local level does not stop. The CDU politician and former Saarland Prime Minister Tobias Hans questioned Merz’s suitability as the Union’s candidate for chancellor and attested to the party leader’s lack of leadership. Hesse’s Prime Minister Boris Rhein (CDU), on the other hand, does not see Merz as damaged.
Statements by Merz in the ZDF summer interview about dealing with the AfD at the municipal level were interpreted by many as a softening of the clear demarcation between the CDU and the right-wing populist party. Merz called such allegations absurd on Monday and made it clear that his party’s incompatibility decision applies and that there is no cooperation between the CDU and the AfD at the municipal level either. The party leader had received a lot of criticism from his own ranks for his statements on Sunday.
The CDU politician Hans said to the magazine “Stern” when asked whether Merz was still the right chairman: “Meanwhile you have to tremble before every summer interview because you don’t know what will come out of it in the end. To be honest, I don’t want to imagine that a Chancellor appointed by the CDU would cause such concern.”
The former Prime Minister added: “And if someone had the declared goal of halving the AfD – and then easily doubling it – then at least that’s not a sign of success. And even the change of Secretary General after only one and a half years does not speak for strong leadership,” said Hans, referring to the change from Mario Czaja to Carsten Linnemann as Secretary General. Hans considers the question of whether Merz will be a candidate for chancellor to be “completely open”.
“Attempt to establish a new sound in the CDU”
Hans emphasized that the CDU must seek consensus with democratic parties and not with the AfD, which he described as a “political enemy”. At the same time, Hans warned of a course shift by the Union away from the centre. In response to statements by Merz, who described the CDU as an “alternative for Germany – with substance” and the Greens as the main opponent, Hans said: “I rather suspect that this is a strategy to try to establish a new sound in the CDU. This is the farewell to the middle course with which the CDU has governed successfully for almost 20 years.
Hesse’s Prime Minister Boris Rhein spoke in the ARD “Tagesthemen” with a view to the Merz interview of “misunderstandings” and “misinterpretations”. In the end, Merz made his position clear. “There is a clear, unambiguous and also very thick firewall to the AfD,” said Rhein. “The firewall is up and it’s very strong,” he added.
CDU Vice Andreas Jung even sees the municipal level as decisive for the demarcation of the Union from the AfD. “The clear demarcation in the municipalities is the foundation of the firewall to the AfD,” said Jung of the “Augsburger Allgemeine”. “The AfD is a right-wing extremist party that tolerates hate and hate speech,” criticized Jung. “Our values oblige: There can only be a clear edge to the AfD, at all levels, today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow,” emphasized the deputy CDU leader. This is also the attitude of Merz. Secretary General Linnemann also made it clear at an event of the Hesse CDU on Monday evening that Merz had only recently confirmed that as long as he was party chairman, there would be no cooperation with the AfD, no matter what level.
There is still dissatisfaction among younger members of the Union about the current state of the debate in the CDU. “It annoys many in the party that we are now discussing the wrong topics again,” said the chairwoman of the young group of the CDU / CSU parliamentary group, Ronja Kemmer, the partner newspapers of the new Berlin editorial company. “We don’t need any self-occupation – neither about the question of who our political opponents are, nor about who our candidate for chancellor is,” added the CDU politician.
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