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POLITICS

Germany’s Laschet takes rap for CDU’s poll drubbing

Armin Laschet, the chief of outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel's party, on Saturday took the rap for its worst ever poll result and said he would quit as the head of the country's most populous state.

Leader of Germany's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and CDU/CSU party union candidate for chancellor Armin Laschet addresses the congress of the joint youth organisation of the CDU and CSU
Leader of Germany's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and CDU/CSU party union candidate for chancellor Armin Laschet addresses the congress of the joint youth organisation of the CDU and CSU in Munster, on October 16th, 2021. (Photo by Ina Fassbender / AFP)

The CDU’s 16 years in power came to an end in the September ballot when it garnered only 24.1 percent of the vote.

“The responsibility for this result lies with me as leader and candidate for the chancellorship,” Laschet told the CDU’s Young Christian Democrats Congress in Munster.

The Social Democrats won the most votes and on Friday announced a preliminary deal to form a new coalition government with the Greens and the free-market liberal FDP.

READ ALSO: Germany’s Social Democrats, Greens and FDP aim to form new government

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: What Germany’s three parties in coalition talks have agreed

If an agreement is reached, the Social Democrat Olaf Scholz should succeed Merkel as chancellor.

Laschet said the conservatives should now prepare to enter the opposition in the Bundestag, a position they have not had since 2005.

Laschet also said he would soon leave his position as president of the North Rhine-Westphalia region, the heartland of the CDU.

He called for a renewal of the party, through a generational change in leadership and greater involvement of women.

Laschet also urged greater unity within the CDU, a call echoed by Health Minister Jens Spahn who spoke of a “a crisis of cohesion”.

Spahn, 41, put himself forward as a candidate to “shape this new CDU”, adding that it was for “the generation after Merkel to accept its responsibilities”.

A day earlier, another potential candidate for the party, the ultraliberal Friedrich Merz, had warned that the CDU was “on the verge of collapse”.

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CITIZENSHIP

German parliament to hold urgent debate on citizenship

Politicians will gather in the Bundestag on Thursday afternoon for an urgent session on Germany's planned changes to citizenship law.

German parliament to hold urgent debate on citizenship

According to information on the Bundestag website, the urgent discussion was scheduled on the request of the opposition CDU party, who have been fiercely critical of the planned reforms in recent days.

The debate, which is scheduled to start at 2:50pm and last an hour, will see MPs air their views on the government’s planned changes to citizenship law.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) is currently in the process of drafting a bill that will simplify and speed up the naturalisation process in Germany, which she said this week is “as good as done”.  

The law will end a ban on dual nationality for non-EU citizens, meaning people from places like India, the USA and the UK can naturalise as Germans without losing their current citizenship – or citizenships. 

It also foresees a dramatic reduction in the amount of time it takes to become eligible for German citizenship.

In future, people would be able to naturalise after five years of residence in the country rather than the current eight, while people who speak good German or fulfil other integration criteria could naturalise after three years rather than six.

Additionally, the Interior Ministry wants to grant automatic German citizenship to the children of foreign parents – provided their parents have been in the country at least five years – and remove language requirements for members of the guest-worker generation who want to become German. 

READ ALSO:

‘We don’t need reform’

High-profile politicians from the CDU have slammed the government’s plans to ease citizenship rules, with parliamentary leader Thorsten Frei describing the move as an attempt to “sell-off” German passports as a “junk commodity”.

“We don’t need reform,” Frei told public broadcaster ZDF. “There would no majority whatsoever in any party’s supporters for this change.”

Earlier this week, CDU leader Friedrich Merz had argued that expediting the naturalisation process would damage integration and allow people to immigrate into the benefits system more easily. 

“The CDU will not close its mind to a further modernisation of immigration law and the citizenship law of the Federal Republic of Germany,” Merz told a meeting of CDU and CSU MPs in Berlin on Tuesday.

“However, we also attach importance to the fact that the granting of citizenship takes place at the end of an integration process and not at the beginning of it.” 

The CDU and CSU have previously been vocal opponents of permitting dual nationality, arguing that holding more than one citizenship would prevent people from fully integrating into German life. 

Nevertheless, it remains unclear if the opposition will be able to block the legislation in any meaningful way.

If there aren’t any substantial changes to the core of the citizenship bill when the amendments are made, the Interior Ministry believes it won’t need to be put to a vote in the Bundesrat – the upper house where the CDU and CSU hold a majority.

Instead, the parties of the traffic-light coalition – the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) – would simply be able to vote it through in the Bundestag. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Could Germany’s conservatives block dual citizenship?

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