Change at the top of the Union faction: Merz seizes power

To analyse

As of: 01/27/2022 8:21 p.m

With the withdrawal from Brinkhaus, the way is clear for Merz at the top of the Union faction. His backing is great – but so are the tasks ahead of him.

By Kristin Schwietzer, ARD Capital Studio

So Ralph Brinkhaus does without. The Union faction leader retires. After a one-to-one conversation with the designated CDU chairman, Friedrich Merz, Brinkhaus decided to do so.

Kristin Marie Schweitzer
ARD Capital Studio

Brinkhaus wanted to avert damage to the party with this step, according to a letter to the MPs ARD Capital Studio available: “Friedrich Merz has informed me that he intends to apply for the office of chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in any case. It is no secret that Friedrich Merz and I have different opinions regarding the chairmanship of the parliamentary group, which we couldn’t resolve either. I think we both have good reasons for our positions. So it shouldn’t and won’t become a personal disagreement.”

“By withdrawing, Brinkhaus spares his party an internal power struggle”, Matthias Deiß, ARD Berlin

Tagesschau 8:00 p.m., 27.1.2022

For Brinkhaus personally, this is probably a bitter decision. In the end, the internal party pressure was too great. There have also been hardly any public signals of support for the CDU/CSU chairman from the CSU. He will no longer compete. New elections are to be held in mid-February.

This decision had already been indicated in the Merz camp. The outstanding election result for Merz at the party conference at the weekend had recently given him strong support. Now they expect in the Merz team that the designated party leader will also be the leader of the parliamentary group. The tenor: parliamentary group chairmanship and party chairmanship belong in one hand. The opposition needs a face.

Withdrawal probably not entirely voluntary

For a long time it looked as if Brinkhaus didn’t want to vacate his position anytime soon. So now he puts himself in the service of the party, probably not entirely voluntarily. After the lost federal election, the parliamentary group leader had repeatedly emphasized that after the Merkel era, there should not be just one face for the renewal of the CDU. Merz obviously sees things differently. Just as Angela Merkel once deprived him of the parliamentary group chairmanship, he will now probably get it back.

But the situation is different than it was then. Brinkhaus certainly has supporters in the group. After the federal election, he was confirmed in office with 85 percent. In September 2018, Brinkhaus prevailed against Chancellor Merkel’s preferred candidate, the then parliamentary group leader Volker Kauder. For many in their own ranks, this was a sign of departure for more independence for the parliamentary group.

Enormous tasks lie ahead of Merz

A little later, the Chancellor began to withdraw from the party. The Union has been tearing itself apart ever since. Two party leaders were crushed in the Union’s power mills. Now the CDU and CSU are practicing self-discipline. The base longs for harmony and leadership in the party and the parliamentary group. The tasks that now lie ahead of Merz are enormous. The content of the CDU must be reorganized and the parliamentary group must renew itself after 16 years on the government bench in the opposition.

For many, this is still unfamiliar. Some people have to learn opposition work first. Brinkhaus would have liked to continue that. But he bends to the will of the newly elected party leader. He wants to remain MP. He doesn’t go in resentment: “I ask you and yourselves to support and carry the new group leader in the same way that I have been supported and carried by the group. Because that’s the only way we will continue to be successful.”

Peace within the party desired

The Union cannot afford any more power struggles this year. Four state elections are just around the corner. In Saarland, North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein, three CDU Prime Ministers want to defend their offices. Tobias Hans, Henrik Wüst and Daniel Günther wish for one thing above all – peace within the party. Brinkhaus cleared the way for this today.

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