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How Merkel’s CDU plans for half of key party posts to be filled by women

Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) is planning for equal representation of women within the party, according to sources. Here's how and why.

How Merkel's CDU plans for half of key party posts to be filled by women
Members of the CDU leadership including party chair Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (third left) and Chanceller Angela Merkel next to her in November 2019. Photo: DPA

After lengthy negotiations, a commission in the centre-right CDU has proposed that an equal number of women and men fill posts in the group's leadership by 2025.

The plan on the proportion of women in party offices and seats provides for a gradual increase in the quota for governing bodies starting at the regional level. On January 1st, 2021, a quota of 30 percent for women is to apply, and in January 2023 a quota of 40 percent is to be met. At the beginning of 2025, the quota for women will be 50 percent.

The compromise came after 11 hours of tough negotiations by the CDU's Structural and Statue Commission, said DPA on Wednesday.

It's not set in stone yet: the plans on the binding quota have to be approved at the CDU's federal party conference in Stuttgart, scheduled for early December.

READ ALSO: 'How much do you earn?' New law tackles gender pay gap

Why is the party proposing this?

Although the top two jobs are held by women (the party's current leader is Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and Merkel is Germany's first female Chancellor), women make up only a quarter of CDU members. This is something the party leadership wants to change and hopes introducing a quota will help.

Other parties in Germany, such as the Left Party, the SPD and Greens, which is led by a woman and man team of Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck, already hold similar policies.

The CDU plans will include similar rules in composing its lists for elections to the state, national and European parliaments.

READ ALSO: More men named 'Hans' than women in top government jobs

A system will also be put in place so that local party groups can report on their progress in increasing their share of women members.

What does it mean?

If passed, the regulation will apply to group elections of board members, such as deputy chairpersons and committee members, but not to individual elections of chairpersons, member representatives or treasurers at federal level.

It would only be possible to deviate from the women's quota if not enough women apply.

The commission also proposes to introduce a “political parental leave” (politische Elternzeit).

Having children should not be a problem to political commitment, the commission said. At all levels, from the local association to the federal executive board, the proposal would allow for parents to suspend posts for up to a year and then resume the post.

According to the proposal, parents should only be able to be voted out of office by a two-thirds majority during this period.

Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo: DPA

However, the plans are subject to approval at the CDU party conference. And there are already signs of resistance within the party against the idea which was put forward by CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

The CDU Economic Council questioned if a quota was needed given the strong representation of women at the top of the party.

“I wonder whether the CDU needs this debate on women's issues at all in view of a German Chancellor, an EU Commission President and currently still a party leader, as well as three out of five heads of its federal ministries in female hands,” the President of the CDU-affiliated association, Astrid Hamker, told newspaper the Passauer Neue Presse.

“To me, approaches such as that of Ms Merkel for the economy or that of Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer for the CDU seem rather over-motivated and unrealistic.”

Debate on status of CDU's lesbian and gay group

Part of Kramp-Karrenbauer's initiative is also a revaluation of the status of the Lesbian and Gay people in the Union (LSU) group. If the party leader gets her way, the LSU is to be put on an equal footing with the student union RCDS, which can introduce its own motions at party conventions.

However, the discussion about a clear status for the LSU was postponed to Wednesday morning after the debate during the night, DPA said.

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ANGELA MERKEL

Former German chancellor Angela Merkel wins UN refugee prize

Former German chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday won the United Nations refugee agency's prestigious Nansen Award, receiving praise for her determination to protect asylum seekers while in office.

Former German chancellor Angela Merkel wins UN refugee prize

Pointing to the more than 1.2 million refugees and asylum seekers welcomed by Germany in 2015 and 2016, at the height of migrant crisis sparked especially by the war in Syria, the UNHCR selection committee hailed Merkel’s “leadership, courage and compassion.”

At the time, the woman who lead the German government for 16 years said the situation “put our European values to the test as seldom before. It was no more and no less than a humanitarian imperative.”

UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi hailed Merkel’s determination to protect asylum seekers and to stand up for human rights, humanitarian principles and international law.

“By helping more than a million refugees to survive and rebuild, Angela Merkel displayed great moral and political courage,” he said in a statement.

“It was true leadership, appealing to our common humanity, standing firm against those who preached fear and discrimination,” he said.

“She showed what can be achieved when politicians take the right course of action and work to find solutions to the world’s challenges rather than simply shift responsibility to others.”

READ ALSO: Five years on: How well did Germany handle the refugee crisis?

The selection committee highlighted that in addition to protecting people forced to flee war, Merkel was the driving force behind Germany’s collective efforts to receive them and help them integrate into society.

The Nansen Award, awarded annually, was created in 1954 in honour of the first UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Norwegian Arctic explorer and  humanitarian Fridtjof Nansen, to mark outstanding work on behalf of refugees.

Merkel will receive her award and the $150,000 in prize money at a ceremony in Geneva on October 10th, where four regional winners will also be honoured.

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