The leader of the conservative Christian Democratic Union of Germany has sparked resistance within his own ranks after slipping that his party is willing to cooperate with the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) at the municipal level, fueling concerns about the sanitary cordon to the extremist formation.
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In an interview on German television this Sunday, the president of the CDU, Friedrich Merz, ruled out joining a coalition with the AfD at the national level, but dropped that such a taboo should not apply to local politics, ensuring that if someone from the far-right party is elected to municipal office it is a choice that must be accepted and that paths of understanding must be sought.
“The issue of cooperation with the AfD affects the legislative bodies. That is, the Bundestag (lower house of the federal Parliament), the regional parliaments and the European Parliament,” Merz said. In the case of AfD victories at the municipal level, he added, “these are democratic results that must be accepted and naturally paths for municipal decisions must be found in the competent bodies.”
The far-right formation is currently doing well in the polls and in eastern Germany has succeeded in electing a mayor and a district administrator.
Resistance in the ranks of the CDU
Merz’s statements have been interpreted as an opening towards that party at the municipal level and have generated resistance in the ranks of the Bavarian sister group, the Christian Social Union (CSU), where they ask not to question the sanitary cordon. “The CSU rejects any cooperation with the AfD at any level. AfD is anti-democratic, far-right and breaks the social consensus. It is not compatible with our values”, said the president of the CSU and Bavarian prime minister, Markus Söder.
Within the CDU, the mayor-governor of Berlin, Kai Wegner, and the former prime minister of Saarland, Tobias Hans, among others, have come up against Merz’s statements on German television.
“The CDU cannot and does not want to cooperate with a party whose social model is hatred and marginalization,” Wegner reacted on his Twitter account to Merz’s statements.
Hans, for his part, recalled that there is a resolution from a party congress in which all cooperation with the AfD is rejected. The vice president of the Bundestag, Yvonne Mangwas, has been more forceful.
“Even if it is the Bundestag or in a town hall, a far-right is a far-right. The ultra-right for a Christian Democrat is always the enemy ”, he said.
Other deputies have also spoken out against Merz’s statements and recalled the resolution of the party congress.
Merz: “There will be no cooperation”
Coming out of criticism, Merz has reiterated this Monday his party’s rejection of all kinds of cooperation with the ultra-rightists. “To make it clear once again. I have never said otherwise: there will be no cooperation with the AfD at the municipal level, ”Merz said on his Twitter account.
Merz had ruled out any cooperation in legislative bodies but had said that if the AfD won municipal elections, the democratic result had to be accepted and forms of cooperation sought.
Sunday’s interview followed a series of comments that appear to relax the CDU’s strict condemnation of the AfD. The cordon sanitaire was fiercely protected under the leadership of Angela Merkel. In 2020, her designated successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, resigned as party leader when she appeared to lack the authority to prevent Thuringia’s Christian Democrat delegates from voting with the AfD to unseat the state’s left-wing prime minister, reports Guardian.