COLOGNE/ BERLIN- If there is a thematic that is going around within the Christian Democrats in Germany, it would be the changing of the generational guard. While it was no secret that Chancellor Angela Merkel is retiring from politics as soon as the new government is in place, many of her constituents are also making their ways to the exit after many years in the parliament- Peter Altmaier (finance minister), Annagret Kampf-Karrenbauer (defense minister) and Wolfgang Schäuble (speaker of parlialemt (Bundestag)) are only a few members of the current cabinet that have served Merkel for much of her 16-years as Chancellor but have decided to step aside to allow the next generation to take the reigns and move the party and Germany forward into the future.
Enter another CDU colleague who was one of the candidates that wanted to succeed Merkel as Chancellor. Armin Laschet was one of three candidates that vied for the post as the next chancellor. As of today, Laschet is calling it quits. On Sunday, the 61-year old officially resigned from his post as not only the chair of the CDU for his state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) but also as prime minister of the state. He had led the former for nine years and was in charge for the latter for four years. His successor will be 46-year old Hendrik Wüst, another unknown who had once considered calling it a career in politics as early as 2018. Now he will have a chance to take both posts from Laschet. The formalities will take place on Wednesday.
Laschet’s resignation came in response to the elections on September 26th, which his party, the CDU, finished with the worst performance in over two decades, with only 24.1% of the votes, losing to the eventual winner, the Social Democrats with Olaf Scholz as the probable candidate for Chancellorship with 25.7%. The Greens came in third with 14.8%, the FDP with 11.5%, the far-right Alternatives with 10.3% and the far left with 4.9%. The FDP and Greens agreed to form a coalition with the SPD to create a “Traffic Light” consortium, though the parties are currently creating a contract which includes delegating positions to members within the coalition. Analysts predict that the government could be in place by mid-December.
Laschet had previously stated he would step down from all political functions including the state prime minister job should he lose the elections. He has taken full responsibility to a series of debacles even during the election campaign that contributed to the poor showing. Yet looking at the history books, the downfall of the CDU also had much to do with the need to change the guard as much of the population was dissatisfied with Merkel’s government within the last six years. This included the refugee crisis in Europe, the Covid-19 policies, climate change and the fall of the NATO-alliance in Afghanistan, as the Taliban regime took power in August for the first time since its downfall 20 years ago. A similar pattern was seen with the fall of Helmut Kohl (CDU) in 1998 after 16 years in power, largely because of the hangover that came from German Reunification, including high unemployment and inflation. Gerhard Schröder (SPD) took over as Chancellor and his Christmas coalition with the Social Democrats and Greens ruled Germany until his downfall and early elections in 2005, which put Merkel into power for the first time.
Apart from his roles on the state level, Laschet has announced that he will also allow someone else to take over his post as the chair of the CDU on the federal level. When the proceedings will begin remains open, but there have been interests within the members of his own party. He has held this post since January 22nd of this year. He will not go away completely, though. He will stay on as representative of his party in Bundestag, as his party will join the two extremists parties of the Alternatives and the Lefts in the opposition for the first time since 2005.