Christian Baldauf had imagined his withdrawal from the leadership of the parliamentary group in the Rhineland-Palatinate state parliament differently. This is how representatives of the state CDU, who he informed on Wednesday evening that he intends to retire from office on March 31, say. Regional media reported on the announcement as early as Thursday morning, which Baldauf confirmed a little later. In March, the defeat of the CDU in the state elections was two years ago. In a statement, Baldauf writes that it was important to him to support a “new, partly young faction” as an “experienced opposition politician”. In the meantime, the group has grown into a team. Baldauf announced a faction conference for the beginning of January. “Here we will set the course for future group work in terms of content and personnel,” said Baldauf.
From the CDU it is said that Baldauf actually wanted to shape the transition more himself and with the announcement of his withdrawal also wanted to present the successor. The fact that the announcement was made public in advance was interpreted by the SPD faction leader in the state parliament, Sabine Bätzing-Lichtenthäler, as a sign of the CDU’s lack of unity. You don’t want this kind of departure for your political opponent either, said Bätzing Lichtenthaler. Personally, she wishes Baldauf all the best. The parliamentary group gives the impression of proceeding without cohesion and without a planned approach. “Anyone who acts like this has neither the strength nor the plan to govern in Rhineland-Palatinate,” said the SPD parliamentary group leader.
“Christian Baldauf lacked the opposition instinct”
Most recently, the CDU in Rhineland-Palatinate was able to increase slightly in a survey. At 29 percent, it is almost on par with the ruling SPD (28 percent), which is well above the national trend. Satisfaction with the work of Prime Minister Malu Dreyer (SPD) had fallen sharply compared to March (minus 12 percent to 54 percent).
Despite the slight positive trend, criticism of Baldauf had grown in the CDU. Because the largest opposition party was able to benefit little from the poor image presented by the state government. In autumn, the SPD chairman Roger Lewentz had to resign from his post as interior minister as a result of the flood disaster. The main reason was his appearance in the investigative committee, which he interpreted as trivializing the catastrophe. In addition, it became public in several waves that the Ministry of the Interior had not passed on files to the parliamentary committee. “The state government is dismantling itself and we stand by it. Christian Baldauf lacked the opposition instinct,” says a Rhineland-Palatinate Christian Democrat.
There is no clear successor to Baldauf. Three of Baldauf’s deputies in the parliamentary group are considered promising. This includes Ellen Demuth from the Eifel, who became known for her support of Norbert Röttgen in his candidacy for the CDU presidency and is considered a political talent. Gordon Schnieder from the Vulkaneifel, who is also Secretary General of the state CDU, and Marcus Klein from the Palatinate are other candidates. Demuth has the longest Polish experience, having been in the state parliament since 2011. However, it could be said that she lacks support in the faction.