With sharp attacks on the traffic light coalition of Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), CDU leader Friedrich Merz tried to prepare his party for a tough opposition course. A year after the Union's disaster in the federal elections, he called on the delegates at the CDU party conference in Hanover to work together to become "the determining political force in our country" again. "Let's show this claim to leadership." With a view to CSU boss Markus Söder, who is expected to give a greeting on Saturday, Merz said: "We have left the quarrels between the CDU and CSU behind."
The CDU had fallen into the opposition in the 2021 federal election with the historically worst Union result of 24.1 percent after 16 years in government of Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU).
In his speech, Merz did not directly address the eagerly awaited vote on a women's quota in the evening. He only said: "It is necessary to deal with ourselves. But it is more necessary to deal with the situation of the people, with the situation of companies in Germany." This should have been understood by the delegates as a reference to the quota debate. Merz was threatened with the first setback in his seven-month term in office if his compromise proposal did not get a majority: a limitation on the quota for women until the end of 2029.
Wüst emphasizes support for party reform
North Rhine-Westphalia's Prime Minister and CDU state leader Hendrik Wüst made his support of the party reform plans clear. "Yes, also the quota, so that it is pronounced." This should be discussed and coordinated quickly. Above all, the party congress should work on issues that people really care about.
Merz went hard on the federal government for dealing with the energy crisis. "Especially at a time like this, when leadership, a clear course and action are required, our country is affording what is probably one of the weakest federal governments of all time," he said. With a view to current survey values, Merz emphasized: "We are back in first place among the German parties."
Merz pointed to the CDU successes in the state elections in Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia. If the party congress sends out the right signals, this could also help to win the election in Lower Saxony on October 9 with CDU top candidate Bernd Althusmann. So 2022 could be "one of the most successful years in our party history".
Merz: "Stop this red-green-yellow ship of fools"
Merz demanded a course correction in energy policy from Scholz. "Stop this red, green and yellow ship of fools on this course you are on," he shouted to the cheers of the delegates. He attacked Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck (Greens) particularly sharply. You can't solve the country's problems with children's books and philosophy alone, he wrote in the direction of Habeck, citing the title of Habeck's book "Little Heroes, Big Adventures". Merz continued: "We are not Bullerbü. We are the fourth largest industrial nation in the world, which cannot afford to set up a trainee program for federal economics ministers."
Merz sharply rejected allegations from traffic lights that the Union, with its policies of the past 16 years, was solely responsible for Germany's dependence on Russian gas. To have made oneself so dependent was "great political stupidity" and naive. This must now be corrected. "But I will not allow the impression to be given in Germany that these were 16 years for the CDU and CSU alone." 20 out of 24 of the past years have had Social Democrats in government in Germany. "They bear at least the same responsibility for this stupidity and for this naivety and for these mistakes."
Merz again criticized the SPD's hesitancy in supplying heavy weapons to Ukraine. "Together with the FDP and the Greens, I would have issued an export permit for 100 Marder tanks to Ukraine," he said. "So it is clear that we are doing everything in our power to help this country."
The CDU leader warned of anti-Semitism from the political left. "Anti-Semitism doesn't get better because it comes from the left," he said. "We have to defend ourselves from both sides in this country against what is happening here and make it clear that there is zero tolerance in Germany." Merz, who is also the head of the Union parliamentary group in the Bundestag, drew a sharp dividing line between the CDU and AfD. "Never and at no point" will there be cooperation between the CDU and CSU and the AfD, he said - "not in the federal government, not in the states, not in Europe".