In the star Historian Andreas Rödder was open to minority governments for his CDU in the East – also with the support of the AfD. Some in the party leadership are horrified. Is there another debate brewing again?
The CDU continues to argue about the right way to deal with the AfD – but this Tuesday afternoon there must first be time for externals. In the atrium of the party headquarters in Berlin, General Secretary Carsten Linnemann presents the new coat of paint for Christian Democracy. The look and feel of Germany’s last people’s party now shimmers turquoise blue. Or as Linnemann says: “modern, dynamic, fresh.”
The party named the turquoise “Cadenabbia”, the additional dark blue color is called “Rhöndorf”. Two places where Konrad Adenauer spent a lot of time. You don’t have to have studied German party history to find an allusion to a tried and tested motto in the CDU’s color renewal: “No experiments!”. What is remarkable is that this week it seems as if parts of the party are willing to dare to do more experiments in dealing with the AfD.
In one, the historian Andreas Rödder called on the CDU to change strategy – and thereby caused quite a stir. Rödder, who is also chairman of the CDU Basic Values Commission, was open to his party’s minority governments in the east, even if they were occasionally supported by the AfD. “The crucial question would be: Is it a minority government that has to constantly look for its majority? Then it’s completely fine,” said Rödder. “It would only be problematic if the CDU allowed itself to be officially tolerated by the AfD and entered into agreements to do so. That would be a red line.”
Rödder’s interview raises several questions. Above all, this: Does his party leadership also see it that way?
Linnemann and Prien distance themselves from Rödder
It didn’t take long – just a few questions later about the striking similarities between the new CDU turquoise and the ÖVP turquoise in Austria – and General Linnemann was supposed to comment on Rödder. But he doesn’t want to, asks for understanding, later. Now it’s ultimately about the party’s new image, he says.
The CDU’s modern color theory apparently should not be disturbed by boring questions of power.
The statement about Rödder comes by email a few hours later. “We appreciate the work that Prof. Rödder does in our program and policy committee. But we do not share his opinion on this point,” explains Linnemann. “On the contrary, we are fighting together to ensure that the CDU becomes the strongest force in all upcoming state elections so that governments cannot rule against us. This applies to Hesse on October 8th as well as to Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg next year.”
It is a distancing without really engaging in the debate. Rödder would hardly disagree that the Union should try to become the strongest force in all elections.
Karin Prien, CDU party vice-president and education minister in Schleswig-Holstein, sounds clearer. “Professor Rödder showed a lot of commitment in the policy commission, but at this point he is exceeding his authority,” she said. “Such statements, which are not supported by either the Presidium or the Federal Executive Board, are completely unacceptable.”
Prien further explained that making oneself dependent on the AfD in any way was completely out of the question. “It is all the more important at this time that the democratic parties maintain a relationship with one another that makes future cooperation possible.” Rödder should rethink his role and not give the impression that he speaks for the CDU.
Former Secretary General Polenz calls for Rödder to withdraw
Some CDU politicians also became clear on social networks. If one followed Rödder, wrote Dennis Radtke, the deputy head of the workers’ wing, “the firewall would become a moving dune.”
And the former Secretary General Ruprecht Polenz even demanded that Rödder could no longer lead the Basic Values Commission. “This is a prominent position that requires a clear compass of values.”
Support for Rödder, however, came from the former Family Minister Kristina Schröder.
Criticism of Merz and Linnemann in the CDU presidium
The question of how to deal with the AfD has been troubling the Union for several days now, since the Thuringian CDU parliamentary group pushed through a motion in the state parliament last Thursday with the AfD votes. At the executive board meeting on Monday, Linnemann and party leader Merz admitted, according to participants, that the decision had not been optimally prepared in terms of communication. Several speakers had previously criticized the fact that neither the board nor the presidium were involved.
Merz had emphasized in a television interview the day before that the decision had been discussed with all regional associations. Members of the presidium later spoke of a “false statement by the chairman” in view of the TV statements. Those present also asked why such a delicate approach in Thuringia could not have waited until after the state elections in Hesse and Bavaria. “This is putting a strain on us locally, that’s clear,” say executive circles.
It was agreed to clarify how to deal with the AfD in more fundamental terms. To this end, the Presidium wants to meet with the East German regional associations in the coming weeks – apparently as part of their own closed meeting. Perhaps Erfurt, Dresden and Potsdam will be more important for the CDU in 2023 than Rhöndorf and Cadenabbia.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.