Friedrich Merz wants to be chairman of the German governing party CDU and thus successor to his intimate enemy, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who gives the party presidency, Merz must, however, fight against the image of an economic lobbyist, which clings to him for years. His critics sense conflicts of interest and even more in the poison kitchen.
Nevertheless, about the same number of Germans would trust the former CDU / CSU parliamentary group leader in the German Bundestag Merz and the former CDU General Secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer to have a successful German chancellorship. 36 percent could most Merz as German Chancellor imagine, just behind Kramp-Karrenbauer is 33 percent, according to a survey by Kantar EMNID on behalf of the Funke media group (Thursday issue).
However, more respondents spoke out against the two candidates for the succession of Merkel at the head of the party. Merz rejects 46 percent in the Chancellor’s office, Kramp-Karrenbauer estimates the 48 percent. The rest of the respondents did not commit themselves.
The third candidate for the CDU chairmanship, the German Minister of Health Jens Spahn, performs significantly worse: Only 17 percent believe that Spahn would be a good chancellor, 65 percent disagree. In the ZDF „Politbarometer“, however, Kramp-Karrenbauer is in front of Merz in both the general population and the CDU supporters. Spahn, on the other hand, is far behind with his approval ratings, as the survey published on Friday revealed.
For Kramp-Karrenbauer as Merkel successor to the CDU top were among all respondents 31 percent and 35 percent of the Union supporters. All respondents get 25 percent approval. With the Union followers, he is with 33 percent just behind Kramp-Karrenbauer. From 6 to 8 November, the election research group polled 1,200 randomly selected voters.
Merz wants to convince MPs
Merz now tries to make good with the CDU deputies. After a report of the „world“, the 62-year-old met on Thursday morning with parliamentarians who have moved into the Bundestag only in recent years. Merz said in the case of his election to the new CDU chairman Merkel a „fair, decent and loyal“ dealings. Merz said on Saturday that the CDU and its future chairman would also have to stay „in the middle“. He rejected a shift to the right of the CDU.
End of an era in Germany?
Merz, however, is not exactly unscathed in the race for the CDU presidency. However, the current investigation by the Cologne public prosecutor at the world’s largest asset manager Blackrock is not directed against Merz himself, the chairman of the supervisory board for Germany. Against Merz would be „no suspicions for the commission of a criminal offense or misdemeanor,“ said the authority on Wednesday.
Scratches on the image
Merz is Supervisory Board Chairman of Blackrock Germany since 2016. According to the asset manager, the controversial „cum-ex“ deals cover the period from 2007 to 2011 – ie the years before taking over the head office. Blackrock collaborated with the investigative authorities, a corporate spokesperson asserted. Merz himself also promised complete enlightenment. The affair is already smoldering years. „But why the search now?“, Asked the conservative „world“ and also indirectly indirectly gave the answer and speculated on possible – party-internal – encouragement for the action of the prosecutor.
Scratches leave the investigation of the image of Merz always: politically unpleasant, of course, that was still for the candidate Merz, as a reaction of the Greens show, wrote about the „Süddeutsche Zeitung“ („SZ“). The Green MP Gerhard Schick had Merz confronted with 13 questions – they almost looked like an interrogation, so the „SZ“ on. For example, referring to „Cum-Ex“: „As Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Blackrock Germany, did you ask questions or do your own research? If not, why not? “
Reputation as „representative of the greedy financial industry“
Also the „Wirtschaftswoche“ criticized Merz as „blue-eyed“. „However, Merz could have known that the subject ‚Cum-Ex‘ will eventually catch up with BlackRock.“ The magazine pointed out that in the years 2011 and 2012 there was always the theme that Blackrock was lending securities around the dividend cut-off date do and do this in a big way. And this securities lending was the prerequisite for the „Cum Ex“ transactions.
Political scientist and party researcher Elmar Wiesendahl sees Merz as having a reputation for image. „The whole thing makes him appear as a man of financial capital, as a representative of the greedy financial industry, and not – as it would be important for a CDU chairman – as a business expert,“ said Wiesendahl in the „Tagesspiegel“. He sees Merz badly hit.
More „bodies in the cellar“?
The federal party convention of the CDU is already in a few weeks. So fast he will not let go of the topic, so Wiesendahl. He is the victim of developments he can not control. It could take two years until the prosecutor’s office has completed their investigations, so Wiesendahl. Until then, Merz’s integrity is in doubt. Since he could not draw with a declaration of honor from the affair. But just before the congress, he also has just bad luck with the timing.
Opponents and opponents of Merz now wonder if more „corpses“ from Merz ‚professional life come to the surface, because Merz is multi-functional and is considered a networker. So also leads the supervisory board of the enterprise WEPA, which manufactures about toilet paper. In addition, Merz heads the supervisory board of Cologne-Bonn Airport and is a member of the supervisory board of the private bank HSBC Germany.
Scandal also at HSBC
HSBC also hit the headlines in Germany – also with „cum-ex“ transactions at the expense of the tax authorities. In these transactions, investors were able to reimburse a once paid withholding tax on dividend proceeds several times.
Merz also sits on the board of directors of the Swiss train builder and Siemens competitor Stadler Rail. Since the beginning of January 2018 Merz is „Brexit“ representative of the CDU-led state government in North Rhine-Westphalia. He should also strengthen relations with the difficult partner USA under President Donald Trump. He wants to resign from his supervisory board mandates, should he be elected in December as the new CDU chairman.
Merz goes on the offensive
Merz also resisted criticism of his activities in the financial industry at the end of last week. At the same time he condemned tax tricks at the expense of the state treasury. „Stock deals like ‚cum-ex‘ and ‚cum-cum‘ ultimately serve to exempt taxpayers,“ said the former union faction chief of „SZ“. Such deals are „completely immoral,“ regardless of the legal rating. „I have always believed in this opinion and have always expressed it.“
With 5,000 euros per day in the headlines
The planned privatization of the Landesbank of North Rhine-Westphalia, the WestLB, had also hit the bill nearly a decade ago. The NRW-Landesbank had fallen into difficulties during the financial market crisis, the state had to support the institute. The plan was to sell to a private investor. Merz was appointed in 2010 by the German state bank rescue fund (SoFFin) as a „disposal agent“ – he was to sell the shares of the Landesbank, which were then at the federal government, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the local savings banks. A complete sale of the institute failed at the end, the Landesbank was smashed, and Merz’s job ended after a year.
The fee agreed with Merz amounted to 5,000 euros per calendar day, and additional costs for other consultants such as investment bankers and management consultancies were taken, as shown by the report of the parliamentary committee of inquiry of the NRW Landtag on the processes surrounding the WestLB. This was „not exactly a cheap offer,“ said former NRW Finance Minister Norbert Walter-Borjans as a witness to the committee. Merz himself testified as a witness that the fee had met „standard hourly rates“.
Lobbycontrol calls for transparency
The organization Lobbycontrol now fears conflicts of interest if Merz is elected as the new CDU chairman. It must be ensured „that he does not offer his current employers preferential access to politics“. So it must be clarified in which issues he had campaigned politically for Blackrock.
Merz must actually strive for transparency, but have missed in the past, criticized Lobbycontrol in view of the complaint of the CDU politician against the disclosure of his ancillary income in his time as a Member. Also the anti-corruption organization Transparency Germany expressed itself in view of the candidacy of Merz critically over its activities in the economy.