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In coalition limbo, CDU/CSU compromises on key job

September 29, 2021

After their election drubbing, Germany's conservatives have voted to keep their parliamentary group leader, Ralph Brinkhaus. But only for a limited time until April, when a coalition is likely to have been formed.

Ralph Brinkhaus
Brinkhaus has agreed to stay on as CDU/CSU parliamentary grop chairman until April 2022Image: Michael Kappeler/dpa/picture alliance

Christian Democratic Union (CDU) chancellor candidate, and party leader,  Armin Laschet said Tuesday there was a will to return to unity as the party decided to keep Ralph Brinkhaus on as parliamentary group leader.

At the parliamentary group meeting of the CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), Laschet and CSU leader, Markus Söder, backed Brinkhaus as group leader on the condition that he step down after 7 months, rather than the usual full-year term. He ran unopposed after agreeing to the shorter term. 

By keeping Brinkhaus as a caretaker chairman, the conservatives can avoid an internal competition for the position as they enter into talks on trying to form a governing coalition, a process that will likely take months.

A battle for Brinkhaus' job could have served as the starting pistol for wider reorganization in the party, potentially jeopardizing its ability to engage with other parties. 

If the CDU/CSU ends up as the parliamentary opposition, the position of parliamentary group leader will take on a very important role. Should Armin Laschet emerge as chancellor, the position would be less consequential.

Brinkhaus was first elected parliamentary group leader in 2018.

Laschet says he's ready for talks with Greens, FDP

The parliamentary group meeting comes as the CSU/CDU bloc says it still hopes to form a governing coalition, despite suffering its worst nationwide result in its history in the federal election, winning only 24.1% of votes. The conservatives also lost their place as the largest party in the country to the Social Democrats (SPD), on 25.7%, for the first time since 2002. 

However, the slim gap between the top two means the conservatives could still form a governing coalition, if they can get the Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) on board as partners.

On Tuesday, Laschet said he was ready to hold coalition talks. "We will now talk to the FDP and the Greens in the next few days," he said. "Our offer of talks stands, and I think that concrete talks among democrats are now the right thing to do."

Laschet also claimed he was getting positive signals from the FDP on their preference for a CDU/CSU-led government.

"Don't give up too quickly," he told the joint CDU/CSU meeting, amid growing criticism of him within the party ranks. 

wmr/msh (dpa, AFP, Reuters)