Political Party Analysis: Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union (Germany)

The sister parties forming “The Union” have a long history, full of sibling squabbles and successes.


Overview and History

“The Union” is the combination of the Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union.  The former runs in every state but Bavaria and the latter runs only in Bavaria, effectively acting as one party electorally while having slightly different ideologies.

The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is a center-right Christian Democratic party that has moved more towards the center in recent years due to working with the Social Democrats in the Grand Coalition.  It historically has been the largest party since it’s foundation in West Germany in 1945 following World War 2.  It is the ideological successor to the Centre Party which was a major party in the Weimar Republic.  It has led 12 out of 18 governments since the end of World War 2, winning an absolute majority once, in 1957, and the CDU is the only party that has done so.  They previously led the government in a coalition with the Christian Social Union and the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), who is their main electoral rival, following the 2013 federal election.

The Christian Social Union (CSU) is also a center-right Christian Democratic party, but they have a more Catholic base (along with Bavaria) and are more socially conservative and fiscally interventionist than their CDU counterparts.  As the CDU was the successor the the Centre Party, the CSU is the successor to the Weimar Republic’s Bavarian People’s Party, which also was an independent sister party to the Centre Party.  The CSU has dominated Bavarian politics, winning an absolute majority in the state elections 13 times and forming a coalition with the Free Democrats when they fall short.

The relationship of the two parties has overall be friendly throughout their history, despite their slight differences.  Relations have been strained over Merkel’s recent immigration policy, though, as the CSU disagreed with her more open policies towards refugees.  There have always been some sibling squabbles between the sister parties and occasionally rumors of separation occur in the CSU, but threats of the CDU running against them in Bavaria are enough to keep the parties from bickering most of the time.

They had one of their worst electoral performances in party history in the 2017 election and are currently in negotiations with the CSU, the Free Democratic Party (FDP), and the Greens to form the country’s first 4 party coalition government.

Angela Merkel has been one of the longest serving Chancellors in German history and has served as a stable hand in times of European turmoil.  (Photo from Wikipedia)

 Recent Electoral History and Political Power

National Party Strength Ranking: CDU: 1st, CSU: 7th

The CDU is the strongest party and the CSU is the 7th strongest party in Germany following the federal election on September 24th of 2017.  Details on their control in specific areas are below.

Chancellor: Angela Merkel has served as Chancellor since 2005.  Overall the CDU has had 5 West German and German Chancellors.  The CSU has never had a Chancellor.

Bundestag: In 2017 the CDU received 26.8% of the vote and 200 out of the 709 seats in the Bundestag, down 7.3% of the vote and its worst result since 1949.  It still finished in 1st place, ahead of the SPD.  The CSU received 6.2% of the vote, entirely from Bavaria, and 46 seats, down 1.2% of the vote.  Together they earned 246 seats and 32.9% of the vote.

Bundesrat: States send representatives on behalf of the state governing coalition to vote in the Bundesrat.  The CDU leads 6 of the 16 state coalitions and serves as a junior coalition partner in 1 state.  Effectively they lead coalitions worth 26 of the 69 votes in the Bundesrat and serve as junior coalition partner for 6 votes.  The CSU holds an absolute majority in Bavaria, controlling 6 Bundesrat votes.

European Parliament: The CDU and CSU are members of the European People’s Party parliamentary group in the European Parliament.  In the 2014 European Parliament elections, the CDU finished in 1st place, ahead of the SPD, with 30% of the vote, earning 29 out of the 96 seats allocated to Germany.  They dropped 0.7% of the vote and lost 5 seats due to the Constitutional Court allowing parties receiving less than 5% of the vote to receive representation in the European Parliament.  The CSU finished in 6th place with 5.34% of the vote and 5 seats.  They lost 1.9% of the vote and 3 seats.

State Parliaments: The CDU holds 532 out of 1,821 seats throughout the state landtags, which makes them the strongest party throughout the states.  The CSU holds 101 of the 180 seats in Bavaria, which technically means they hold the 7th most state landtag seats.



Economic and Fiscal Policy

The Union remains fairly center-right on economic policy, emphasizing that they want full employment by 2025.  They also call for billions of more euros for schools and investment in research universities outside of cities to encourage living in rural areas.  They call for a continuation of Germany’s balanced budget without increasing taxes, except increasing the limit on taxable income slightly.  They believe a priority should be decreasing the German national debt.  The CDU holds the bureaucracy as an important part of the German economy and favors a “social market economy” with regulations to ensure the economy works for the people.  This is done through a large safety net and keeping unemployment low.  They also continue to call for privatization of most if not all state controlled companies.  On housing, they call for alleviation of the tax on purchasing a home for young families purchasing their first house as well as allowing property owners building apartments to write off more of their property taxes.  On many issues, though, they have compromised with the Social Democrats and regulated things such as passing a regulation setting a minimum quota for women on the board of companies.  They have accepted and want to work towards the Paris Climate Accord’s goals as well without banning certain types of cars.

Liberty Rating*: C+

Social and Foreign Policy

The CDU and CSU split more on social policy (as the CSU is slightly more conservative), but the majority of their platform is still the same.  Both emphasize the role of the family in German culture and advocate increasing the child allowance by around 1,500 euros per child.  This is largely to combat the shrinking German birth rate.  On security they both advocate increasing the amount of police officers as well as increasing video surveillance in public areas and punishing crimes more harshly.  In terms of internet monitoring they advocate more data retention and blocking more internet searches.  While gay marriage has been legalized as part of its coalition with the SPD, the Union is resistant to complete equality on tax law and adoption.  While the Union was very accepting of refugees during the refugee crisis, the CDU calls for more integration and a more point based system of immigration.  On European policy, the CDU is a staunch advocate for continued European integration and strengthening of the EU in general.  They are very pro United States on foreign policy and willing to be involved in coalition wars.  They have called to increase the military budget to the 2% of GDP mandated by NATO.

Liberty Rating*:  D+

Political Spectrum**

CDU and CSU Spectrum

Based on our liberty ratings for the CDU and CSU’s economic and social policies, they are both center-right Christian Democratic parties, with the CSU being slightly more socially right and economically center.  They hold both economically liberal and interventionist policies, causing the it to fall slightly inside the “Right” instead of the “Authoritarian” sector.  Socially, they fall inside of the “Moderate” sector sector due to their mix of immigration policies, devotion to the family, supporting the EU, and compromising while not out rightly supporting gay marriage.

*Disclaimer: The policy positions in this article have been evaluated using Wikipedia, the party’s own website, and various articles concerning Germany politics.  We attempt to rate the parties based on all information that is available, but due to language barriers, lack of information, or simple mistake we may have missed something.  If you feel our liberty ratings or general evaluations are incorrect, please let us know on our contact page or nicely in the comments and we’ll try to fix it.  If you have questions on how these ratings are created, feel free to ask as well.

**This spectrum shows economic liberty on the right axis and social liberty on the left axis, so 100 on both axis is “pure” libertarianism and 0 on both axis is pure authoritarianism for example.

Author: Brendan Noble

I am a political consultant, data-analyst, Hillsdale College economics alumnus, and conservative-libertarian. Twitter: @Brendan_Noble

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