In the North Rhine-Westphalian state parliament, the entire CDU parliamentary group and cabinet members with the CDU party book stand on Tuesday evening before Prime Minister Armin Laschet appears in front of the press at the side of his designated successor Hendrik Wüst.

Armin Laschet should be able to bring this last political mission to an end in Düsseldorf with dignity.

That is why the North Rhine-Westphalian CDU state executive asked the Union Chancellor candidate shortly after the historic debacle in the federal elections on Monday last week to moderate the process for his successor himself.

Pure burger

Political correspondent in North Rhine-Westphalia.

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It was a friendly gesture to a man to whom the state party owes a lot. In 2012, Laschet became the CDU chairman in North Rhine-Westphalia. He succeeded surprisingly quickly in pacifying the notoriously divided association. Against the expectations of many party friends, Laschet then led the CDU back to power in Düsseldorf in 2017. Since then, the black-yellow alliance has functioned without major frictions. Laschet would certainly have had a good chance of defending the office of Prime Minister in the state elections in May 2022. But now the loser in the Bundestag election in Berlin is fighting for his own political future.

After the exploratory talks between the Union and the Greens, Laschet rushed from Berlin to Düsseldorf on Tuesday afternoon to settle his political legacy. There is not much left to decide for him. For weeks now, everything has been heading towards Transport Minister Hendrik Wüst. The 46-year-old Wüst, unlike the 44-year-old building minister Ina Scharrenbach, who is also traded as an aspirant, has the state parliament mandate required for the election of prime minister according to the NRW constitution. Last week, the majority of both the state executive committee and the parliamentary group voted for the offices of government and party leader to remain in one hand in the future. The Laschet successor would have to go to the state elections in May 2022 with an official bonus; this is the only way to achieve the mission of “maintaining power on the Rhine”.

Broad support for Wüst

The Wüst, who came from Rhede in the Münsterland, was never one of Laschet's best political friends - which should now turn out to be an advantage for the transport minister in view of Laschet's continued loss of reputation, even among CDU supporters.

While the Rhinelander Laschet always advocated the liberal Merkel course, Wüst was long considered decidedly conservative.

After the election of the black and yellow government of Prime Minister Jürgen Rüttgers (CDU), Wüst stood in 2010 on the side of Karl-Josef Laumann, who had prevailed against Laschet in the struggle for the chairmanship of the parliamentary group.

Although Wüst is the head of state of the influential CDU SME Association, it has long been unclear whether Laschet would appoint him to his cabinet after his victory in the 2017 state elections. But then Laschet, who always attaches importance to allowing all party currents to appear, made Wüst Minister of Transport. Wüst has since understood how to present himself as gripping in the office. And he used it to change his image: Wüst no longer relies primarily on the car in the old CDU manner, but rather on the bicycle like no other North Rhine-Westphalian transport minister before him.

Like Laschet, Wüst now claims to cover the entire breadth of his party from the middle.

It is no coincidence that not only the economic, but also the social wing and the Young Union are making strong for Wüst, as are almost all the district chairmen of the state CDU.

SPD hopes for a traffic light in 2022

The Laschet era will only last a few days in North Rhine-Westphalia. A party congress in Bielefeld is to elect Wüst as state chairman and top candidate for the state elections on October 23. On October 27, Wüst is to be elected Prime Minister in a special session of the state parliament. That has been agreed with the FDP, says CDU parliamentary group leader Bodo Löttgen. The black-yellow coalition has a majority in the state parliament. The FDP signaled early on that the election of a Laschet successor would by no means fail because of it. The FDP now says that some issues from the coalition agreement with the CDU that have not yet been dealt with have to be discussed beforehand.

There is little time left to build up an official bonus.

Especially since he is dealing with a revitalized social democracy.

For long stretches of the legislative period, the SPD was in third place behind the Greens in surveys.

The leadership role of the CDU seemed unchallenged.

But in the federal election, the comrades in North Rhine-Westphalia pushed themselves a good three points in front of the CDU and hope to be able to forge a traffic light alliance in Düsseldorf next year.