CDU after the Bundestag election: One party learns the opposition

To analyse

As of: 10/28/2021 5:01 p.m.

After 16 years, the CDU will soon find itself in the opposition. But can she still do that? About a party that is suddenly doomed to attract attention.

An analysis by Michael Stempfle, ARD capital studio

“Actually, I went into politics to shape things,” says the Union’s digital expert, Nadine Schön. Therefore, she would prefer to rule. And yet opposition work also offers opportunities. The 34-year-old personally felt the bad election result of the CDU. She has lost her constituency in Saarland.

Michael Stempfle
ARD capital studio

It is thanks to the withdrawal of Ministers Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and Peter Altmaier that she became part of the Union family in the Bundestag again.

Not only in Saarland did the CDU take “personnel renewal” seriously. And it is not only there that she is relying on a generation change. The CDU and CSU have also opted for a 41-year-old young mother for the Bundestag Vice-President, Yvonne Magwas from Saxony.

Expectation pressure of the young generation

However, the younger generation is now also burdened with expectations. The younger ones will have to deliver in the next four years. Because the Union sees itself as a ruling party. Rhineland-Palatinate in particular has shown that slipping into opposition can become a perceived permanent state. So how do you become capable of governing and, above all, become attractive again for young voters?

The magic word in the Union is currently “constructive opposition work”. That means: criticize when the government makes mistakes, score with clever suggestions of your own, but in no way “condemn everything from the start”, so Schön.

Programmatic alternative?

“We are not allowed to reject proposals in parliament just because they come from the government,” added Thorsten Frei, deputy parliamentary group leader. And yet it has to be possible to “show programmatic and personal alternatives to the government.” Don’t just say no, but offer competing drafts, “said Frei.

Roderich Kiesewetter, Chairman of the Parliamentary Control Committee, does not want any fundamental opposition either and warns his party friends: “This path is more arduous.” Also because applications by the opposition are usually rejected by the government majority. But it’s not about show, not about not using every situation to take a stab. In the end it will show who has the better idea.

Damned to attract attention

But the truth also includes: If the Union approves the government too often, it will be perceived as pale. Put simply: the Union is doomed to attract attention. And that is exactly what is unlikely to be an easy task between the two other opposition parties, the AfD and the Left, who naturally have less scruples about rumbling.

One could be noticed, says Philipp Amthor from Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. “However, we would be badly advised if we wanted to copy the AfD and the Left.” For him, it’s about differentiating himself from the other two opposition parties in style. In the matter, however, one has to uncover “the contradictions of the traffic light”, which from his point of view there will be. Already now he feels a “great joy”, later the coalition agreement, which the traffic light will probably work out, to compare with the election manifesto of the FDP and to reveal weaknesses.

Create “space for experimentation”

Schön is also sure that there will be enough to do. Should the traffic light government come, then the Union will surely find differences to its own Christian Democratic positions. For example on the subject of artificial intelligence. The Greens and FDP tended to regulate a lot, while the CDU also wanted to create “experimental spaces”, so Schön.

It is clear to everyone in the Union that, especially at the beginning of the legislative period, it will not be easy to find uniform positions in the parliamentary group. According to Marco Wanderwitz from Saxony, this applies to the issue of migration, for example. There are forces in the CDU who advocate a more rigorous course, according to the acting Parliamentary State Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Affairs. Therefore, at the beginning of the opposition period, the first thing for the Union was to endure the polyphony and then to find common positions in dialogue.

Don’t jump to conclusions

According to Wanderwitz, it is important not to jump to the wrong conclusions. He is sure that the Union does not have to become more conservative. After all, she lost the votes to the parties in the middle and not to the AfD. The reason why the CDU did so badly in the East is mainly due to the fact that it did not focus on social issues: i.e. minimum wages and pensions.

The topics of affordable housing, local public transport and rising fuel prices were also neglected in the election campaign, adds Kiesewetter. This makes the attitude of the Union these days obvious: first analyze your own mistakes, then learn the lessons from them.

Rebooting will be difficult

Sounds easy, but it’s not. The new start in the opposition will be difficult for the Union. The CDU does not yet know who its party leader will be. And in future it will no longer be so easy to fall back on the expertise of the Chancellery and the ministries. It must develop its own concepts more independently than in previous legislative periods. Foreign experts like Kiesewetter have been used to this in recent years, as the Foreign Office was headed by a Social Democrat.

In the future, a high level of responsibility lies not only with the parliamentary group and a new party leadership, but also with the Konrad-Adenauer-Haus and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, Kiesewetter is certain. Is it possible, for example, to set up mirror presentations to the ministries in the party headquarters? Can new, modern tools for membership participation be created? What new impulses could the foundation provide?

Kiesewetter is 58 years old and a grandfather, as he proudly tells us. The task of his generation is now to let go of himself and instead to be there for the younger ones, to advise them. “When we older people take a back seat, when we are in the background for advice, we are also giving an important signal to society,” said Kiesewetter. It is about “taking the younger ones, who have already achieved something, more responsibility”. In general: Opposition is a responsible task in a democracy. It is about recognizing the government’s mistakes, naming them and showing alternatives.

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