Huge fuss about Friedrich Merz: CSU boss Markus Söder sets himself apart from the CDU chairman in a spectacular way. A number of CDU politicians are doing the same. For the Greens and the SPD, Merz even becomes an enemy of the constitution. And some evoke the role of conservatives in the rise of Adolf Hitler in 1933.
The trigger for the unprecedented excitement was a television interview in which Merz ruled out any cooperation with the AfD, but put it into perspective for local politics. Which leads to the question: What is “collaboration” in this specific case? Because there are so many – certainly intentional – misunderstandings about Merz’s statements, here is his original quote from the “summer interview” on ZDF:
“Of course we are obliged to accept democratic elections. And if a district administrator or mayor is elected there who belongs to the AfD, then the local parliaments have to look for ways to shape the city, the state, the district together.”
Merz correctly reported the situation in his summer interview
This makes it – actually – clear what Merz just didn’t talk about: from “collaboration”. CDU General Secretary Carsten Linnemann made this difference – which is decisive for the whole debate – clear: no “cooperation” between the CDU and the AfD – “no matter what level”. But:
“If the local parliament is about a new daycare center, we can’t just vote against it because the AfD votes. We don’t make ourselves dependent on right-wing extremists.” It’s something completely different, “when the SPD votes out a mayor in Hildburghausen with the AfD. Something like that would be out of the question for the CDU, it’s ‘collaboration’ with the AfD.” Linnemann described the process correctly: In Hildburghausen, the SPD and AfD actually voted out a mayor of the Left Party in joint “cooperation” in parliament.
In his summer interview, Merz correctly described the situation, especially from a local political point of view. In the Thuringian town of Sonneberg, Robert Stuhlmann was the first AfD politician to be elected district administrator. Now it is regulated in the municipal constitution: There is the district administrator and there is the district council. The district administrator can enforce almost nothing against the district council, and the district council cannot enforce anything against the district administrator. A full quarantine decision would mean completely shutting down District Administrator Stuhlmann via the district council.
Then nothing would move in the district of Sonneberg for five years
That would be possible – but only in theory. Because: Then nothing would move in the district of Sonneberg for five years. No road would be built, no swimming pool would be renovated, no day care center would be modernized. Politically, the democratic parties entered into a risky bet with the population in the district.
It reads: Bet that next time you will only vote for us, i.e.: Left, CDU, SPD, Greens, FDP? Because you understood that for us “cooperation” with the AfD means: blockade. What will the citizens in the district then vote for next time? As a reminder: The strongest mobilization takes place in East Germany over the accusation of “paternalism”.
Incidentally, the Thuringian state administration has meanwhile checked the AfD district administrator Stuhlmann for his expected “duty of loyalty to the constitution”. The state government made up of the SPD, the Greens and the Left Party considered this necessary, because they were not allowed to include enemies of the constitution in the civil service elections. The result is now available:
Stuhlmann can remain district administrator, and the state administration currently has no doubts about his “duty to comply with the constitution under civil servant law”. She justified the review of Stuhlmann, which was heavily criticized by the AfD – after the election – with the classification of the Thuringian AfD as “safe right-wing extremist”. From which it follows that “individual members” of the AfD “pursue right-wing extremist efforts”. They wanted to check whether Stuhlmann “belongs to this group of AfD members”.
In Berlin, the CDU has long worked with the Left Party
This question arises from the Stuhlmann case: How could a district parliament refuse to cooperate with “its” district administrator if there are expressly no doubts as to his or her loyalty to the constitution?
Friedrich Merz made it clear once again after the storm of indignation: “I have never said it differently: the resolution of the CDU applies. There will also be no cooperation between the CDU and the AfD at the municipal level.” With this, Merz now goes beyond the basic decision on the incompatibility between Christian Democrats and the “Alternative”, because:
The decision of the CDU at the Hamburg party conference in 2018 does not differentiate between the federal levels. It reads literally: “Germany’s CDU rejects coalitions and similar forms of cooperation with both the Left Party and the Alternative for Germany.” The CDU has long since left the same gap between the AfD and the Left Party.
In Thuringia, the CDU is now openly discussing cooperation with the Left Party after the next state election – which should actually result in a party exclusion procedure. And in Berlin, the CDU has long worked with the Left Party at the level of the districts – each one has more inhabitants than the Thuringian district of Sonneberg. Daniel Günther, the head of government in Schleswig-Holstein, was the first Western prime minister to bring the CDU “toleration” of a left-wing minority government into play.
Merkelians fear a conservative axis shift of the CDU under Merz
The violent attacks by green and social democratic politicians on Merz can also be explained by their own poor government performance. A spectacle around Merz offers a welcome distraction. Publicly suspecting Merz of wanting to tear down the CDU’s “firewall” to the AfD is part of the repertoire often heard on the political left. In fact, it falls into the category of slander.
The violent attacks from the CDU on Merz can be explained by their location – they are often supporters of the Merkel CDU, like its former Secretary General Polenz. They fear a conservative axis shift of the CDU under Merz, his general secretary Linnemann and Merzen’s most important man in the group, Thorsten Frei.
Markus Söder’s withdrawal movement can also be explained by his luxury situation: In Bavaria, the CSU is the leading power at all levels. The election of an AfD district administrator in Bavaria is not to be expected.