The Union continues to struggle for the right time to decide on the chancellor candidacy in the next federal elections. In the ARD “summer interview” on Sunday in Berlin, CDU leader Friedrich Merz left open whether the candidate for chancellor should be determined before or after the state elections in late summer 2024. The Hessian Prime Minister Boris Rhein (CDU) had previously followed the proposal by CSU leader Markus Söder to only clarify the K question after the state elections in Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg in September 2024.

Merz now said on ARD: “That can be a good argument. I know that some of the East German state associations see it differently. We decide that together and not publicly.” At the same time, the Union faction leader emphasized: “Markus Söder and I, we have a shared responsibility for the CDU and CSU.” There is a common parliamentary group, together we go to the next elections, the European and the federal elections. “We will also take on this joint responsibility, also with regard to the timing. It is now summer 2023. We are talking about late summer 2024 and the 2025 federal election.”

Confronted with poor results from a survey on the chancellor question, Merz emphasized that he is currently ahead of Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) on this issue, as well as Green Ministers Annalena Baerbock (outside) and Robert Habeck (economy). “But we’re not looking at surveys now. We’re making sure that we’re on the right topics.” It is important that the Union gets the majority in the next federal elections. Merz added: “If there were federal elections today, there could be no government in Germany without the Union.”

Wüst avoids the K question and praises Merz

When asked about his ambitions for a chancellor candidacy, Prime Minister Hendrik Wüst (CDU) emphasized his role as head of government in North Rhine-Westphalia. “I have a wonderful job here, and I would like to continue working on it,” he said in Düsseldorf in an interview with the editor-in-chief of the news portal The Pioneer, Michael Bröcker. But it is difficult to make a permanent commitment: “I’m 48 years old and have experienced so much in politics. If I said ‘forever’ – nobody would believe that.”

He expects an amicable decision on the candidacy: “The CDU and the CSU will decide that peacefully in the year before the general election.” Wüst expressly praised Merz. This is “already the right one,” said Wüst. “The guy has a clear head. He’s passionate about making sure this country is doing well.” At the same time, Wüst emphasized his independence: “I say what I think is right. I am the state chairman of the largest state party, the CDU. In individual cases, it may not be the party line.”

Rhein: Prime Ministers have a say

Hesse’s Prime Minister Boris Rhein (CDU) insists that Union state politicians have a say when it comes to the K question. “The state chairmen and prime ministers want to have a say in the candidacy for chancellor,” he told the newspapers of the Funke media group. The CSU boss must also be “of course involved”. “Markus Söder also plays a prominent role in the Union as Bavarian Prime Minister. In any case, we need a chancellor candidate that the entire party supports and who also inspires the entire party.”

Regarding Söder’s suggestion that the candidate for chancellor should only be clarified after the state elections in three eastern German states, Rhein said: “I wouldn’t mind. Then we can decide in peace.” It is certain that Merz will propose “an orderly procedure”.

Rhein, who leads an alliance with the Greens in Hesse, emphasized that a black-green coalition works if both partners stick to the coalition agreement and “discuss everything, behind closed doors”. Merz had described the Greens as the “main opponent” of the Union in the federal government and thus drew criticism from within the party. In Hesse – as in Bavaria – a new state parliament will be elected on October 8th.