‘Chaotic Demoralized Union’: Merkel’s CDU laments ‘bitter day’ after losing big in Hamburg state election
Leadership chaos and the recent scandal in Thuringia – where the CDU sided with the tabooed AfD – led voters to punish the chancellor’s party in Germany’s second-largest city, its top-tier members and opponents believe.
The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) achieved its worst ever result in the city state of Hamburg on Sunday, scoring only 11.2 percent of the vote and trailing far behind its center-left rivals, the Social Democrats and Greens, who won the support of 39 and 24.2 percent of residents respectively.
This is one of the most embarrassing state election defeats in the CDU’s history, according to Der Spiegel, second only to the 1951 vote in Bremen, where it garnered just nine percent. Unsurprisingly, morale among the Christian Democrats – already dubbed the ‘Chaotic Demoralized Union’ in the media – was as low as their election result.
“It is a bitter day for the CDU in Germany and a historically bad result in Hamburg,” lamented the party’s secretary general Paul Ziemiak. "For us as a union there is nothing to gloss over,” added Daniel Gunther, prime minister of northern state Schleswig-Holstein.
The bitter defeat didn’t come out of the blue; the Christian Democrats have suffered from the leadership crisis which broke out after party leader and designated Merkel successor Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer – or AKK as she came to be known in German media – suddenly stepped aside, sending the party into a tailspin and blowing open the race for the chancellorship.
With AKK no longer at the helm – although she technically leads the CDU – the party lacked the determination and vision needed to win. The defeat in Hamburg was about “leaderlessness,” as Saarland Prime Minister Tobias Hans put it on ARD.
Referring to the selection of a new leader, he said it was important that AKK “has the right to act in order to organize the whole thing,” but failed to mention that Kramp-Karrenbauer’s abdication was due to organization and management skills she couldn’t show.
Earlier this month, a CDU branch in the eastern state of Thuringia defied AKK’s instructions and voted with the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party to unseat the Left Party’s State Premier Bodo Ramelow and install the little-known Thomas Kemmerich, from the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP).
The move, which Merkel called “unforgivable,” broke with a consensus among mainstream parties of not cooperating with the right-wing group, and “noticeably overshadowed the Hamburg election campaign,” according to CDU’s major candidate Marcus Weinberg.
“These developments have made us famous and ultimately cost a lot of votes,” he admitted, explaining why voters handed the Christian Democrats their worst result. "Despite a creative and committed election campaign, our own election goals were clearly missed,” Weinberg said.
Meanwhile, Susanne Hennig-Wellsow, head of the Left Party in Thuringia, agreed with the judgement, saying “the taboo breach has hit [CDU] all the way to Hamburg.”
Some say, however, that the “leaderlessness” and the Thuringia scandal aren’t the biggest problems in the party.Also on rt.com ‘Taboo gone’: Ruling coalition in Germany shaken by fresh crisis after Merkel’s CDU breaks ranks on not cooperating with AfD
“The problems are homemade,” a high-ranking CDU member who refused to be named told Die Welt newspaper. He said the mood within the party was poisoned by envy and resentment instead of mutual support. “Internally, we tend to be malicious when one of us fails – and we don't realize that it all falls back on all of us,” he revealed.
Later in the year, the chancellor’s center-right party faces a string of local elections in Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and the city of Leipzig in the east, the results of which will likely affect the nationwide vote in 2021.
According to recent polls by ARD and Bild, CDU – and its Bavarian allies – still holds the ground with between 26 and 27 percent of voter support, but as the Hamburg vote has shown, predictability is no longer a feature of German politics.
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