From Black to Orange SPIEGEL ONLINE's Guide to German Political Parties

The Reichstag, Germany's parliament building in Berlin.

The Reichstag, Germany's parliament building in Berlin.

Part 2: Christian Democratic Union (CDU)

The Christian Democratic Union, founded after World War II, is Germany's main conservative party. Five of the eight chancellors who have led the Federal Republic since 1949 have been CDU members. It has its roots in the Center Party, a Catholic political party founded in 1870, and its traditional strongholds are in southwest and western Germany.

CDU Chancellors Konrad Adenauer and Ludwig Erhard presided over West Germany's post-war economic miracle by espousing the principles of the social market economy, which rejects socialism and laissez-faire economics and sees the government's role as providing the framework for fair competition, low unemployment and social welfare.

The party continues to adhere to those principles, which have become the bedrock of Germany's economic system.

As a Protestant woman who grew up in communist East Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel, 58, is not a typical CDU member. But she has the party firmly in her grip because she is popular and has sidelined every single potential rival since she became CDU leader in 2000. She owes her strong approval ratings to a widespread perception that she has handled the euro crisis well and has shielded German taxpayers from the fallout as effectively as she can. But she also has a knack for avoiding political controversies. Her fence-sitting is legendary in Germany, and while it has brought her accusations of weak leadership, it also often leaves her looking presidential.

The CDU won't be pledging any painful reforms in its election manifesto and is banking on Merkel as its main vote puller. Its message will be continuity with a safe pair of hands. Given that the economy remains sound and unemployment remains low by European standards, the strategy might just work.

Color used to represent party: Black


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