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Comment: Merz as Chancellor candidate sure? In one matter, Söder is ahead of the CDU chief

CDU chief Merz is considered the favorite for the Union’s chancellor candidacy. However, one ability sets him apart significantly from a possible competitor: CSU chief Söder has learned to govern. A commentary from the Tagesspiegel.

If you ask Michael Kretschmer (CDU), the Prime Minister of Saxony, the question of the Union’s chancellor candidate is already decided. “Friedrich Merz is the head of the CDU and the Union’s parliamentary group in the Bundestag – and is very supported by Markus Söder, Alexander Dobrindt, and me for a candidacy,” claims Kretschmer in the “Funke” newspapers.

There is much to be said for Friedrich Merz becoming the CDU/CSU’s chancellor candidate at first glance. As CDU chairman, Union parliamentary group leader, and opposition leader, Merz is formally and factually the most powerful man in the Union parties. In recent months, the Union has gained support, ranging from 31 to 34 percent in polls.

Merz gains respect

Merz has largely rallied the CDU/CSU parliamentary group behind him. He has made fewer mistakes lately than at other times. Nearly two years before the regular Bundestag election in 2025, he is gaining respect, even abroad, as shown by the reception from Emmanuel Macron at the Élysée Palace.

So, is Merz already the chancellor candidate and the challenger to Olaf Scholz, without having been formally nominated? Does Kretschmer’s thesis that the K-question is decided hold true? Easy there! Whether Joachim-Friedrich Martin Josef Merz, 68 years old, will actually become the chancellor candidate is as uncertain today as it was six months ago.

Laschet barely prevailed

The notion that Merz, as the head of the larger of the sister parties CDU and CSU, has the “first access” to the candidacy is a formalistic view. It was less than three years ago that the then CDU chief Armin Laschet declared his willingness to run for chancellor – and so did the CSU chief Markus Söder.

Only with much effort and the vehement advocacy of Wolfgang Schäuble did Laschet prevail over Söder. So much for the “first access right.”

Markus Söder won a state election in October, albeit not gloriously. But he is firmly in place as Prime Minister and CSU chairman. The occasionally dreamed-of internal party uprising against Söder in the CDU did not materialize. In polls, Söder receives (considerably) better approval ratings than Merz. How might CDU state chairmen and members of parliament feel when they realize that more percentages, more mandates, and more power could be gained with Söder than with Merz?

Söder’s words change as the day progresses

Anyone who objects that Söder no longer aspires to the chancellor candidacy does not know Söder. His inclination to speak differently at noon than he did in the morning and to change alleged convictions like other people change their undershirts is legendary.

In response to Söder’s assurances that he is not available or the like, Armin Laschet, who is experienced with Söder, recently commented: “I’ve heard all these statements before”

“Es war mir zuvor unbekannt.” Im Laufe der Zeit dürfte Söder in München allmählich langweilig werden. Weshalb sollte ihn Berlin auf einmal nicht mehr anziehen? Wieso sollte sich Söder nicht mehr zutrauen, die Kanzlerkandidatur zu übernehmen?

Man kann zwar über Söders Flexibilität und Opportunismus spotten. Jedoch unterscheidet ihn eine Fähigkeit erheblich von Merz: Söder hat das Regieren gelernt. Er ist seit über 16 Jahren in dieser Position, war Europaminister, Umwelt- und Gesundheitsminister, Finanzminister. Söder führt seit fast sechs Jahren ein Land, das eine größere Bevölkerung hat als Belgien, Portugal oder Schweden und das jedenfalls besser als Belgien funktioniert.

Die Erfahrung ist ausschlaggebend

In diesen Zeiten ist Regierungserfahrung wichtiger als je zuvor. Die verschiedenen Krisen im In- und Ausland erfordern einen Kanzler, der weiß, wie man regiert, wie man große Verwaltungsapparate steuert. Friedrich Merz hat weniger Regierungserfahrung als Gregor Gysi, war nicht einmal Landesminister oder nur Staatssekretär.

Söder weiß zudem, wie man mit einem anspruchsvollen Koalitionspartner umgeht. Es ist unwahrscheinlich, dass Merz, der zuweilen emotional-unkontrolliert ist, ohne weiteres eine Regierung mit zwei oder sogar drei weiteren Koalitionsparteien geschmeidig moderieren kann – darauf können nicht einmal seine treuesten Anhänger vertrauen.

Von Daniel Friedrich Sturm

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