“To make it clear once again, and I never said it any other way: the resolution of the CDU applies,” wrote Friedrich Merz on Twitter on Monday morning. “There will also be no cooperation between the CDU and the AfD at the municipal level.”
On Sunday, the CDU leader had once again ruled out cooperation between his party and the right-wing populist party “Alternative fur Deutschland” (AfD) at state or federal level, but believed contacts at local level were possible. At the municipal level, democratically elected officials of the AfD must be dealt with more pragmatically, Merz said in the “summer interview” of the second German television. “If a district administrator, a mayor who belongs to the AfD, is elected there, it goes without saying that you then look for ways to continue working together in this city.”
Broadside against Merz
The statement was met with widespread rejection in the Union. “The AfD only knows opposition and division,” wrote Berlin’s Governing Mayor Kai Wegner (CDU) on Twitter. “Where should there be cooperation?” The CDU “cannot work with a party whose business model is hatred, division and exclusion”. There must be a clear firewall to the right.
The CDU external expert Norbert Röttgen also emphasized that his party had “bindingly decided on an unrestricted ban on cooperation with the AfD”. “Anyone who wants to change that must find a majority at a federal party conference of the CDU. Until then, everyone has to stick to the resolution,” wrote Röttgen on Twitter.
Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder confirmed on Monday that his party rejects any cooperation with the AfD, “regardless of the political level”. Because the AfD is “anti-democratic, right-wing extremist and divides our society,” wrote the chairman of the sister party CSU on Twitter. “It’s not compatible with our values.”
Linnemann stands behind the CDU leader
On the other hand, CDU General Secretary Carsten Linnemann defended Merz against the criticism. For the CDU it is clear that there is “no cooperation with the AfD”, “no matter what level,” he told the “Bild” newspaper. “Friedrich Merz also sees it that way, although he rightly points to the difficult implementation on site. Because if the local parliament is about a new daycare center, we can’t just vote against it because the AfD votes.”
The parliamentary director of the SPD parliamentary group, Katja Mast, accused the CDU leader of crossing borders because of his statements on cooperation with the AfD at the municipal level. “Friedrich Merz and Carsten Linnemann cross a border,” said Mast of the German Press Agency in Berlin. “Their much-cited fire wall to the right is papier-mâche and they set fire to it.” Mast added: “The AfD is (…) not a normal party, it wants to undermine democracy – whether locally or in the country.”
SPD General Secretary Kevin Kuhnert accused Merz of “breaking a taboo”. The change of course that Merz is obviously aiming for is based on a “totally fragile argument,” said Kuhnert. No one doubts that democratic elections like that of AfD politician Robert Stuhlmann for district administrator in Sonneberg, Thuringia, must be recognized.
“The AfD is allowed to take part in democratic elections, it can win mandates, fill them out, has all parliamentary rights,” said Kuhnert. “Only one thing – like all other parties – it has no right to, namely that it is politically cooperated with, that it has to be part of the local majority.”
In the state of Thuringia, the State Office for the Protection of the Constitution has classified the AfD’s state association there as right-wing extremist.
kle/as (dpa, afp, rtr)