Merkel′s CDU plans to pull back voters from Germany′s populist right | News | DW | 19.11.2016
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2017 Federal Election

Merkel's CDU plans to pull back voters from Germany's populist right

With the 2017 election approaching, Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU has set out proposals, targeting voters lost to the populist right. Merkel is expected to announce imminently whether she will stand for a fourth term.

Faced with the aftermath of the US presidential election, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her fellow Christian Democrats (CDU) must, in the meantime, also turn their heads to matters closer to home as Germany gears up for the 2017 federal election.

According to a draft paper titled "Orientation in difficult times - for a successful Germany and Europe," the CDU has laid out a number of measures in the hope of regaining the support of disappointed voters.

The largest threat to the CDU remains the right-wing populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD) which has enjoyed growing momentum in recent months and now holds seats in 10 of Germany's 16 state parliaments.

Asylum seekers at Rosenheim train station in Bavaria, southern Germany.

An unprecedented 890,000 asylum seekers arrived in Germany in 2015

Having previously given the CDU a more centrist makeover, Merkel now looks to be taking a more conservative stance ahead of next year's election in the hope of wooing so-called "losers of modernization," many of whom have jumped ship from the CDU and are currently seeking refuge with populist parties.

Compromise with CSU

The proposals, presented to several German media organizations on Friday, are due to be discussed by the CDU Presidium and the CDU Executive Board in Berlin on Sunday and Monday, before being finalized at the CDU party conference in Essen on December 6 and 7.

The main topics for December's congress include pensions, family and refugees. On the issue of immigration, the draft proposal states that the CDU is determined to do everything in its power to ensure that another million refugees and migrants do not arrive in Germany within one year. In 2015, some 890,000 asylum seekers crossed into Germany.

"Due to our goal of not repeating last year's events, we have taken all these measures within a short time and, if the situation requires, will adopt further measures," the paper read.

CDU's Bavarian sister-party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), has repeatedly demanded a guarantee that the number of refugees arriving in Germany would not reach that of 2015. The proposed policy therefore paves the way for a joint election program between the two parties at next year's federal election. A cap on immigration arrivals remains off the cards, however.

Alternative for Germany (AfD) party leader Frauke Petry

Alternative for Germany (AfD) party leader Frauke Petry

Open, liberal society

The CDU paper also emphasizes the party's tough attitude towards integration. According to the 17-page document, integration into the "majority society" has to be pushed through to prevent the development of parallel societies.

"Anyone who refuses to integrate and disregards our rule of law and values ​​must face sanctions, down to benefit cuts and deportation," the paper reads, adding that full-face veils in court and in front of authorities, as well as marriage with minors should be prohibited.

Setting itself apart from the right-wing populist parties, however, the CDU emphasizes that Germany is an open, liberal society in which diversity is expressly valued and Christian-Jewish history is part of the country's identity.

"The practice of the Muslim faith is, of course, welcome and protected in Germany," the document adds.

The proposals circumvent the dispute about an Immigration Act, however, stating only that the statutory rules for labor market migration are to be arranged and brought together in a law in accordance with the 2017 federal election.

Fourth term for Merkel?

In the field of family policy, the CDU wants to alter the income tax rate for married couples to a regulation for families, in order to better support parents. Germany's statutory pension scheme also looks to be a mainstay, meaning, however, than an increase in the retirement age is likely:

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"If, fortunately, we're all living longer and are always younger in age, then we must allocate the gained lifetime to an adequate amount of additional work and additional retirement."

The Christian Democrats also intend to spend more money on state defense. By means of tax revenues and low interest rates, the CDU promises to invest financial scope in infrastructure, tax relief, especially for families and people with small and medium-sized incomes, as well as foreign and security policy.

The release of the document on Friday came as Germany awaits confirmation from Merkel of whether she will run for a fourth term as chancellor. Having held office since 2005, Merkel is expected to inform the nation of her decision as early as Sunday.

CDU politician Norbert Röttgen told CNN on Tuesday, however, that Merkel would be running for the chancellery next year.  

Merkel "is absolutely determined, ready and willing to contribute to strengthen the international liberal order," Röttgen said.

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