Auf Wiedersehen Angela, Servus Annalena: Exploring the Christian Democratic Union’s (CDU) electoral
For months, the lives of citizens all over the world have been marred by uncertainty. As for those in Germany and the European Union, this uncertainty has existed in stark contrast to the certainty that the end of an immutable force of German and European politics is on the horizon: as of 27 September 2021, Angela Merkel will no longer be chancellor of the Federal Republic. Though Merkel announced this over two years ago, it is still unclear how the political vacuum that is soon to be left in her wake would be filled.
After a lengthy power struggle between two current state premieres, the moderate Armin Laschet of North Rhine-Westphalia and the conservative Markus Söder of Bavaria, Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) decided in January that Laschet would be the next chancellor candidate. Laschet represents both a decision for continuity from the CDU, and the influence Merkel is trying to exude over the party even at the time of her imminent departure. With Laschet holding a moderate political ideology and strong relationship with Merkel – having previously been described as ‘Merkel’s right hand man’ – Germany’s potential choice to return a CDU chancellor this September can mean that the international political scene can expect a somewhat eased transition into the post-Merkel period.
In such a politically volatile time, it many appear like the conservatives are playing it safe: the centrist model has consistently appealed to the German electorate for the last 16 years, so why change strategies now? It would seem that the CDU has prioritised political continuity over reacting to a changing political landscape. In this sense, Laschet’s nomination acts as the exact opposite of playing it safe: it is a political gamble. The CDU is wagering that their reputation over the last 16 years with Merkel’s centrism at the heart of their policy agenda will be more appealing to the electorate than the change guaranteed by the election of another party. Not only was the choice of candidate against political momentum, with Söder triumphing comprehensively in prospective leadership polling, but the seeds for a shift in the traditional domination by the CDU and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) were sewn in the results of the most recent national elec