The candidates for the Christian Democrat Union's leadership have recently presented their position on key topics, including the country’s migrant and asylum policy, triggering debates beyond the party circles.
Incumbent CDU General Secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, considered to be the Chancellor’s favourite, stated that Syrians who had committed crimes should be sent back to their homeland despite the civil war. Meanwhile, Germany has had a moratorium on the deportation of Syrians since 2012, which is expected to be prolonged this December as the country’s Interior Minister Horst Seehofer announced.
At the same time, Health Minister Jens Spahn, who has been a vocal critic of Angela Merkel’s policy, has taken aim at the UN Migration pact Germany is planning to sign next month amid opposition in the US and Austria abroad and the right-wing Alternative for Germany party at home. Spahn opposed the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, forged to make the growing tide of international migration more safe and orderly, and slammed attempts to sign it “secretly”. He called to decide the fate of the accord with a party vote.
Merkel’s other fierce critic, millionaire lawyer Friedrich Merz, triggered debates as he went even further and expressed doubts that the asylum right should continue to be a feature of the country’s Basic Law, which serves as its constitution.
“If we want to regulate immigration at the European level, then someday we will need a general debate on the fundamental right to asylum…I have long believed that we need to think about it," he said.
The remark has sparked discussions in Germany, the only EU country to constitutionally guarantee asylum-seekers refuge. Politicians on the right, on the left and in the political centre criticised the CDU leadership candidate, although they had different arguments. While politicians from the AfD slammed him for hijacking their ideas, Social Democrat lawmaker Johannes Kahrs criticized both Merz and Jens Spahn for opting to play 'the AfD card', Handelsblatt reports. He suggests that the AfD would profit as a result as doubting voters will choose the original, not the CDU copy.
Merkel’s decision to open borders and her handling of the migration crisis, which hit Europe and Germany in particular in 2015 due to an influx of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing crises in the Middle East and North Africa, has caused discontent among Germans.
July’s YouGov poll revealed that a total of 72 percent in Germany think that the country’s migration policy is too careless, while only 12 per cent of respondents expressed satisfaction with the country’s migration policy.
Under these circumstances, her CDU is losing voters’ support, as the polls suggest. In October, the party suffered a major setback in a state vote in Hesse, while their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), sustained its biggest loss in half a century in last month's election to the regional parliament. Following this blow, Merkel, who has been CDU leader since 2000 and chancellor since 2005, announced in late October that she would not seek re-election as party leader in December or seek a fifth term as chancellor in 2021, setting a deadline for her exit from German politics.