Christian Democratic Union (Germany)

Christian Democratic Union (Germany)
Christian Democratic Union of Germany
Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands
Chairman Angela Merkel (Chancellor)
Founded 1945
Headquarters Klingelhöferstraße 8
10785 Berlin
Newspaper Union
Youth wing Junge Union
Membership  (2011) 499,646[1]
Ideology Christian democracy
Liberal conservatism[2]
Political position Centre-right[3]
International affiliation Centrist Democrat International,
International Democrat Union
European affiliation European People's Party
European Parliament Group European People's Party
Official colors Black (customary), Orange (official)
Seats in the Bundestag
194 / 622
Seats in the Regional Parliaments
593 / 1,859
Seats in the European Parliament
34 / 99
Politics of Germany
Political parties
Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, 2010

The Christian Democratic Union of Germany (German: Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands, CDU; German pronunciation: [ˈkʁɪstlɪç ˌdemoˈkʁaːtɪʃə uˈni̯oːn ˈdɔʏtʃlants]) is a Christian democratic and conservative political party in Germany. It is regarded as on the centre-right of the German political spectrum. Along with its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union of Bavaria, the CDU forms the CDU/CSU grouping, also known as the Union, in the Bundestag.

The leader of the party, Angela Merkel, is the current Chancellor of Germany. The CDU is a member of the European People's Party (EPP), and sits in the EPP Group in the European Parliament. Internationally, the CDU is a member of the Centrist Democrat International and the International Democrat Union. The CDU is the largest political party in Germany, followed by the Social Democratic Party of Germany.


Party platform

The CDU is Christian-based, applying the principles of Christian democracy and emphasising the "Christian understanding of humans and their responsibility toward God." CDU membership consists however of people adhering to a variety of religions as well as non-religious individuals. The CDU's policies derive from Political Catholicism, Catholic social teaching and political Protestantism, as well as fiscal conservatism and national conservatism. The CDU was the first proponent of the social market economy, although the party has adopted more liberal economics policies since Helmut Kohl's term in office as the Chancellor of Germany (1982–1998). In terms of foreign policy, the CDU commits itself to European integration and a strong relation with the USA. In the European Union, and opposes the entry of Turkey into the EU, preferring instead a privileged partnership with Turkey. In addition to citing various human rights violations, the CDU also believes that Turkey's unwillingness to recognise Cyprus as an independent, sovereign state contradicts the EU policy that its members must recognise the existence of one another. Domestically, the CDU emphasises curtailing red tape and the preservation of cultural traditions.

Opponents of the CDU are the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), the democratic socialist The Left party and Alliance '90/The Greens. The CDU has however governed in two Grand Coalitions with the SPD as well as in various coalitions with the Alliance '90/The Greens. The CDU rejects coalitions with The Left and extremist right-wing parties.

The Free Democratic Party (FDP), a conservative-liberal party, is the preferred partner of any CDU government since the CDU and FDP have similar attitudes towards fiscal policy. As a conservative party, the CDU supports stronger punishments of crimes and supports involvement on the part of the Bundeswehr in cases of domestic anti-terrorism offensives as well as in natural catastrophes. In terms of immigrants, the CDU supports initiatives to integrate immigrants through language courses, and aims to further control immigration. Dual citizenship should only be allowed in exceptional cases.


Party convention, Düsseldorf 1965

Immediately following the collapse of the Nazi dictatorship at the end of World War II, the need for a new political order in Germany was imminent. Simultaneous yet unrelated meetings began occurring throughout Germany, each with the intention of planning a “Christian-democratic party.” The “Christlich-Demokratische Union” was established in Berlin on 26 June 1945, and in Rheinland and Westfalen in September of the same year.

Poster for the CDU, 1957. "No experiments".

The founding members of the CDU consisted primarily of former members of the Centre Party, German Democratic Party, German National People’s Party, and German People’s Party. Many of these individuals, including CDU-Berlin founder Andreas Hermes and future chancellor of Germany Konrad Adenauer, were imprisoned for the involvement in the German Resistance during the Nazi dictatorship.

One of the lessons learned from the failure of the Weimar Republic was that disunity among the democratic parties ultimately allowed for the rise of the Nazi Party. It was therefore crucial to create a unified party of Christian Democrats – a Christian Democratic ‘’Union’’. The result of these meetings was the establishment of an interconfessional (Catholic and Protestant alike) party influenced heavily by the political tradition of liberal conservatism. The CDU experienced considerable success gaining support from the time of its creation in Berlin on 26 June 1945 until its first convention on 21 October 1950, at which Chancellor Adenauer was named the first Chairman of the party.

The CDU was the dominant party for the first two decades following the establishment of West Germany in 1949. Konrad Adenauer remained the party’s leader until 1963, at which point former minister of economics Ludwig Erhard replaced him. As the Free Democratic Party (FDP) withdrew from the governing coalition in 1966 due to disagreements over fiscal and economic policy, Erhard was forced to resign. Consequently, a grand coalition with the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) took over government under CDU Chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger.

The SPD quickly gained popularity and succeeded in forming a social-liberal coalition with the FDP following the 1969 federal election, forcing the CDU out of power for the first time in their history. The CDU continued its role as opposition until 1982, when the FDP’s withdrawal from the coalition with the SPD allowed the CDU to regain power. CDU Chairman Helmut Kohl became the new Chancellor of West Germany and his CDU-FDP coalition was confirmed in the 1983 federal election. Public support for the coalition’s work in the process of German reunification was reiterated in the 1990 federal election, in which the CDU-FDP governing coalition experienced a clear victory.

East German CDU leader Lothar de Maizière (left) with West German CDU leader Helmut Kohl, September 1990

After the collapse of the East German government in 1989, Kohl – supported by the governments of France, the United Kingdom, and the United States – called for German reunification. On 3 October 1990, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) was abolished and its territory re-annexed by West Germany. The East German CDU merged with its West German counterpart, and elections were held for the reunified country. Although Kohl was re-elected, the party began losing much of its popularity because of an economic recession in the former GDR and increased taxes in the west. The CDU was, however, able to win the 1994 federal election by a narrow margin due to an economic recovery.

Helmut Kohl served as chairman until the party's electoral defeat in 1998, when he was succeeded by Wolfgang Schäuble; Schäuble resigned in early 2000 as a result of a party financing scandal and was replaced by Angela Merkel, who remains the leader of the CDU to this day. In the 1998 federal election, the CDU polled 28.4% and the CSU 6.7% of the national vote, which was the lowest result for CDU/CSU since 1949. Thus, a Red-Green coalition under the leadership of Gerhard Schröder took power until 2005. In 2002, the CDU and CSU polled slightly higher – 29.5% and 9.0%, respectively – but still lacked the majority needed for a CDU-FDP coalition government.

In 2005 early elections were called after the CDU dealt the governing SPD a major blow, winning more than ten state elections, most of which were landslide victories. The resulting grand coalition between the CDU/CSU and the SDP faced a serious challenge stemming from both parties’ demand for the chancellorship. After three weeks of negotiations, however, the two parties reached a deal whereby CDU received the chancellorship while the SPD retained 8 of the 16 seats in the cabinet and a majority of the most prestigious cabinet posts.[4][5] The coalition deal was approved by both parties at party conferences on November 14.[6] Merkel was confirmed as the first female Chancellor of Germany by the majority of delegates (397 to 217) in the newly assembled Bundestag on 22 November.[7]

Although the CDU/CSU lost support in the 2009 federal elections, the FDP experienced the best election cycle in their history, thereby enabling a CDU/CSU-FDP coalition. This marked the first change of coalition partner by a Chancellor in German history.

Internal structure


A May 2011 study by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation concluded that the CDU currently has 499,646 members.[8] Of those nearly half-million members, 25.4 % of members are female and 74.6 % male. Female participation is higher in the former East German states with 29.2 % compared to 24.8% in the former West German states.

Before 1966, membership totals in CDU organisation were only estimated. The numbers after 1966 are based on the total from 31 December of the previous year.

Data about state party group

Konrad-Adenauer-Haus, headquarters of the CDU, in Berlin
State group Chairman Members
Baden-Württemberg Baden-Württemberg Thomas Strobl Thomas Strobl 074.669
Berlin Berlin Frank Henkel Frank Henkel 012.568
Brandenburg Brandenburg Saskia Ludwig Saskia Ludwig 006.797
Bremen Bremen Thomas Röwekamp Thomas Röwekamp 003.246
Hamburg Hamburg Marcus Weinberg Marcus Weinberg 009.697
Hesse Hesse Volker Bouffier Volker Bouffier 047.789
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Lorenz Caffier Lorenz Caffier 006.038
Lower Saxony Lower Saxony David McAllister David McAllister 072.813
North Rhine-Westphalia North Rhine-Westphalia Norbert Röttgen Norbert Röttgen 165.273
Rhineland-Palatinate Rhineland-Palatinate Julia Klöckner Julia Klöckner 049.856
Saarland Saarland Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer 020.651
Saxony Saxony Stanislaw Tillich Stanislaw Tillich 013.148
Saxony-Anhalt Saxony-Anhalt Thomas Webel Thomas Webel 008.410
Schleswig-Holstein Schleswig-Holstein Jost de Jager 026.674
Thuringia Thuringia Christine Lieberknecht Christine Lieberknecht 012.035

Party strongholds

The traditional strongholds of the party are concentrated in rural and Catholic regions such as the Eifel, Münsterland, Sauerland, Fulda district, Emsland, Oldenburger Münsterland, the Thuringia Eichsfeld as well as areas in Nordfriesland, Saxony, Schwaben, Vorpommern, Taunus, and smaller cities such as Baden-Baden, Konstanz, and Pforzheim. There is less support in Bremen, Brandenburg, and East Berlin.

Relationship with the CSU

Germany Day of Junge Union in Cologne, 1986

Both the CDU and the Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU) originated after World War II, sharing a concern for the Christian worldview. In the Federal Parliament (Bundestag), the CDU is represented in a common faction with the CSU. This faction is called CDU/CSU or, informally, "the Union;" its basis is a binding agreement known as a Fraktionsvertrag between the two parties.

The CDU and CSU share a common youth organisation: Junge Union.

On issues of federal policies the CDU and CSU don't differ[citation needed], but they remain legally and organisationally separate parties. The social differences between the CDU and the somewhat more socially conservative CSU have sometimes been a source of conflict in the past. The most notable and serious such incident was in 1976, when the CSU under Franz Josef Strauß ended the alliance with the CDU at a party conference in Wildbad Kreuth. This decision was reversed shortly thereafter when the CDU threatened to run candidates against the CSU in Bavaria.

The relationship of CDU to the CSU has historic parallels to previous Christian democratic parties in Germany, with the Catholic Centre Party having served as a national Catholic party throughout the Kaiserreich and the Weimar Republic with the Bavarian People's Party functioning as the Bavarian variant.

Konrad Adenauer Foundation

Conference in Rhöndorf, with eminent historian Golo Mann (center), 1978

The Konrad Adenauer Foundation is the think-tank of the CDU. It is named after the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany and first president of the CDU. The foundation offers political education, conducts scientific fact-finding research for political projects, grants scholarships to gifted individuals, researches the history of Christian democracy, and supports and encourages European unification, international understanding, and development-policy cooperation. Its annual budget amounts to around 120 million Euro.[9]

Special organizations

Notable suborganisations of the CDU are:

Chairmen/Chairwomen of the CDU, 1950-present

Chairperson Period
Konrad Adenauer 1950-1966
Ludwig Erhard 1966-1967
Kurt Georg Kiesinger 1967-1971
Rainer Barzel 1971-1973
Helmut Kohl 1973-1998
Wolfgang Schäuble 1998-2000
Angela Merkel 2000-Present

Parliamentary chairmen/chairwomen of the CDU/CSU group in the national parliament

Chairperson of the CDU/CSU group Period
Heinrich von Brentano di Tremezzo 1949–1955
Heinrich Krone 1955–1961
Heinrich von Brentano di Tremezzo 1961–1964
Rainer Barzel 1964–1973
Karl Carstens 1973–1976
Helmut Kohl 1976–1982
Alfred Dregger 1982–1991
Wolfgang Schäuble 1991–2000
Friedrich Merz 2000–2002
Angela Merkel 2002–2005
Volker Kauder 2005-Present

German Chancellors from CDU

Chancellor of Germany Time in office
Konrad Adenauer 1949–1963
Ludwig Erhard 1963–1966
Kurt Georg Kiesinger 1966–1969
Helmut Kohl 1982–1998
Angela Merkel 2005-Present

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Boswell, Christina; Hough, Dan (April 2008). "Politicizing migration: opportunity or liability for the centre-right in Germany?". Journal of European Public Policy 15 (3): 331–48. doi:10.1080/13501760701847382. 
  4. ^ "Merkel named as German chancellor". BBC News. October 10, 2005. Retrieved April 1, 2010. 
  5. ^ CNN. [dead link]
  6. ^ "German parties back new coalition". BBC News. November 14, 2005. Retrieved April 1, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Merkel becomes German chancellor". BBC News. November 22, 2005. Retrieved April 1, 2010. 
  8. ^ Die Mitglieder der CDU: Studie by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation
  9. ^ 2010 Annual Report p.93 (German)

Further reading

External links

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