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Why Friedrich Merz avoids arguments with Markus Söder

Why Friedrich Merz avoids arguments with Markus Söder

When will the Union decide the K question? That is now clear. CDU leader Friedrich Merz has accepted a proposal from CSU leader Markus Söder, which is just another indication: Merz is doing it.

Friedrich Merz is an old political professional – and sometimes you even notice it. On Tuesday, the CDU leader cleared up a debate that had occupied his Union for a long time. Quite casually, in two sentences, without any fuss. An effective hit in a stroll past that only professionals can deliver.

“I tend to suggest that the decision about the candidate for chancellor should be made after the three state elections in East Germany,” Merz told the FAZ. “Otherwise these elections will become too much of an early federal election.”

He tends to do that. Well then. Was there something?

It may be necessary to briefly explain how things recently went between Berlin and Munich, between the CDU and CSU. After all the upheavals surrounding the 2021 federal election, Merz and Markus Söder tried to celebrate the new unity wherever and whenever possible. Tragically, the next candidate for chancellor question is already waiting on the Alpine white and Rhöndorf blue horizon. And associated with it are two words that have great potential to disrupt rediscovered sisterly love: the process and the timing.

Friedrich Merz and the meteorologist from the CSU

First, the timing. When will the CDU and CSU agree on their candidate for chancellor (gender superfluous)? This question had recently become a topic for meteorologists, specializing in late summer. Because it was exactly there, in the late summer of 2024, that Merz had always located the clarification of the K question. Which is about as precise as a time indication as the Sauerland is as a meeting point for a hike. So it’s no wonder that the weather researcher and Prime Minister Söder felt called upon to help clarify the situation. Late summer, he decided, that was after the state elections in East Germany, i.e. after September 22nd.

Admittedly, that was cheeky even by Söder’s standards. For it could hardly have been the inclination of the earth’s axis to the sun that guided him in this realization. Rather, it could have been the prospect of a positive political climate. If the CDU experiences one electoral defeat after another in Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg, Merz will be in a weak position. And Söder could try again to move his place from Munich to Berlin.

Six months ago, Merz did not want to respond to the provocation. “Late summer lasts until the end of September,” he said. Therefore, he could see no contradiction between his position and Söder’s. So far, so open. But because, according to all the rules of Middle Franconian statesmanship, everyone who is not firmly on his side is against Söder, the case was clear for those involved and observers: Söder and Merz are arguing about the time to clarify the K question.

This dispute would probably have escalated in the coming weeks. Simply because journalists asked again and again about the timing. Merz has now prevented that. He now sees things like Söder. Why? Because he can afford it. It’s a classic decision of the category: the stronger gives in.

Merz scores points as opposition leader. He gave the party a new basic program. He can expect to be re-elected as party leader in May with a result almost similar to that of North Korea. His ex-colleagues at Black Rock would probably sum up: Merz’s goodwill is big enough to survive three East German state elections. He can only beat himself. But that would be another story.

Procedure? What procedure!

And so to the process. Who decides with whom and in what order who will be the candidate for chancellor? Given the complex structures of the CDU and CSU with many district leaders, this sounds like a highly complicated matter. But she isn’t. The much-cited process for clarifying the K question is a mirage. From a distance you can see many small country oases with a “have a say” banner waving on their palm trees. But at the one watering hole that actually exists, a relaxed Friedrich Merz sits and treats himself to a Pilsner.

The K question is decided in a dialogue between the CDU leader and himself.

“Friedrich, do you want to do that?”

“Yes, Friedrich, you have to do it now!”

It’s easy. The timing now doesn’t matter at all. In the end, Markus Söder also knows that.

Source: Stern

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