Almost 100 days before Germany’s voters head to the polls, the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) have finalized their election manifesto: “The Program for Stability and Renewal — Together for a Modern Germany.”
CDU leader and chancellor candidate Armin Laschet and CSU chair Markus Söder presented the 139-page paper in a show of unity on Monday — just three months after a bitter fight for the conservative chancellor candidacy, which was ultimately handed to Laschet.
“We consistently combine climate protection with economic strength and social security,” Laschet said. “We provide security and cohesion in times of change.”
The CDU and CSU, which are currentlyleading in the polls at around 28%, are the last major parties to present their manifesto for September’s general election. And political observers were quick to point out that it caters to the CDU/CSU’s elderly electorate, of which 40% are over the age of 60.
The conservatives’ political opponents quickly voiced criticism.
Foreign policy: The Union wants Germany, within the framework of the EU, NATO, the United Nations, and other organizations, to “actively contribute to international crisis management and to shaping world order.” While China’s desire for power must be countered with strength and unity, in close coordination with the transatlantic partners, close cooperation with China must still be sought, the Union says. With regard to Russia, the CDU/CSU say they will continue to strive towards an end to the conflict in eastern Ukraine and a return to the legitimate status of Crimea under international law. The Union’s manifesto also rejects Turkey’s possible accession into the European Union.
Migration: Migration should be limited and controlled effectively, the manifesto lays out. Beyond the existing regulations, no further family reunification should be granted to refugees. Rejected asylum seekers should be forced to leave the country, and collective deportations should be facilitated by “detention facilities” at airports.
Climate: The climate chapter in particular falls short on specific figures. The CDU and CSU say they’re committed to Germany’s goal of climate neutrality by 2045 — but that’s already part of the outgoing coalition’s Climate Protection Law. The manifesto remains vague on what that means for everyday life. Instead, the two parties want to rely on expanded CO2 emissions trading, which they say is the ideal way forward with Germany’s European neighbors. In addition to e-mobility, the Union says it also wants to rely on hybrid gases for road vehicles. A ban on diesel vehicles, however, is off the cards — as is a general speed limit on highways. It does mention, however, that more freight should be transported by rail and on inland waterways rather than roads.
Domestic security: The CDU and CSU want to take a hard stance when it comes to domestic security. The manifesto advocates more video surveillance in public spaces, automated face recognition, and the widespread use of body cameras. The state must take tough action against criminals, terrorists, and clans, the manifesto reads.
Social welfare and housing: Recent calls for an increase in the retirement age are not included in the program. However, the Union wants to examine the concept of a “generation fund” in which the state would put aside €100 a month for every newborn child until they turn 18. An alternative to the “Riester” private pension fund is also in the program. This would be supported by state subsidies and would be compulsory for low-wage earners. By 2025, the Union wants to build more than 1.5 million new apartments. It also foresees a federal construction program for employee housing and incentives for the construction of company housing.
Economy and taxes: Despite Germany’s immense national debt, the Union wants to forego tax increases due to the corona pandemic. The manifesto doesn’t mention any major tax relief for citizens. Meanwhile, the Union is setting its sights on capping corporation tax at 25%. The maximum wage for an income tax-free “mini-job” is to be increased from €450 ($535) to €550.
The CDU/CSU also insist that the EU’s COVID-19 recovery fund remains “one-time and temporary,” and that this should be “no entry into a debt union.”
Space travel: The Union’s program says space travel is a key industry from which medium-sized companies should also benefit. The conservatives plan to pass a space law that is start-up and SME-friendly. “We will work on an international level for the sustainable use of space in order to enable future generations to have access to space,” the manifesto reads.
At the age of 40, Annalena Baerbock has been co-chair of the Greens since 2018. A jurist with a degree in public international law from the London School of Economics, her supporters see her as a safe pair of hands with a good grasp of detail. Her opponents point to her lack of governing experience.
Armin Laschet is the national party chairman of the Christian Democrats (CDU) and serves as premier of Germany’s most populous state. Conservatives routinely underestimated the jovial 60-year-old, who is famous for his belief in integration and compromise. But, recently, his liberal noninterventionist instincts have led to him eating his words more than once during the coronavirus pandemic.
Plumbing new depths with each election, the Social Democrats (SPD) decided to run a realist rather than a radical as their top candidate in 2021. Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, a former mayor of Hamburg, and Merkel’s deputy in the grand coalition, is seen as dry and technocratic. Many in his party say the 62-year-old is unlikely to energize party activists and win their hearts.
The 42-year-old media-savvy Christian Lindner joined the Free Democrats (FDP) at the age of just 16 and has headed the party since 2013. The reserve officer and son of a teacher comes from North Rhine-Westphalia and studied political science. He hopes to join a ruling coalition after the September election, and the conservative CDU/CSU is his declared preference.
The 63-year-old Dietmar Bartsch and 39-year-old Janine Wissler complement each other. Bartsch is from East Germany, a pragmatist who has led his parliamentary party since 2015. Far-left Wisseler hails from western Germany and has been the party’s co-chair since February. She represents the Left’s more radical positions, such as the immediate end to military missions abroad and all weapons exports.
Co-chair Tino Chrupalla, 46, joined the Alternative for Germany (AfD) in 2015, attracted to its anti-immigration platform. The painter and decorator from Saxony has been an MP since 2017 and backs the extreme-right wing, but urges moderate campaign language. Alice Weidel, a 42-year-old economist, is the co-head of the AfD in the Bundestag. AfD members have accused her of not pulling her weight.
The Greens and the Left Party were quick to criticize the CDU and CSU for not explaining how their election promises were to be funded.
“In the draft, you can find more than 110 promises with financial implications,” Green parliamentary deputy Oliver Krischer told regional daily Augsburger Allgemeine. “Either Armin Laschet wants to launch a gigantic debt program or many of the checks will bounce,” Krischer said.
Speaking to broadcaster RTL/ntv on Monday, Lars Klingbeil, General Secretary of the Social Democrats (SPD) — the conservatives’ current coalition partner — deplored the direction of the manifesto.
“This is no longer Angela Merkel’s Union, this shows that social coldness will move in with [CDU leader and chancellor candidate] Armin Laschet. And this is a program that will polarize this country,” Klingbeil said.
CSU leader Söder rebuked Klingbeil on Monday however saying that the manifesto was not “cold,” but an “outreaching hand.”
While you’re here: Every Tuesday, DW editors round up what is happening in German politics and society, with an eye toward understanding this year’s elections and beyond. You can sign up here for the weekly email newsletter Berlin Briefing, to stay on top of developments as Germany enters the post-Merkel era.