Mario Czaja and Friedrich Merz never shared heart and soul.

When the designated federal chairman stood for the post of party leader for the first time in December 2018, the CDU man from Berlin voted for the then outsider Jens Spahn in the first ballot.

When Merz made the second attempt, Czaja stood up for Armin Laschet.

But at the weekend, the 46-year-old man from East Berlin, who has just moved into the Bundestag for the first time, is to become Secretary General and thus a close confidante of the new man at the head of the party.

Markus Wehner

Political correspondent in Berlin.

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This is also surprising when it comes to substantive positions: Czaja has always advocated a relaxed relationship between the CDU and the Left Party, not exactly a typical attitude of the new party chairman from Sauerland.

In addition, Czaja is considered a modernizer, a label that Merz has not yet been pinned on.

So how is it that Merz chose this man who was still unfamiliar with federal politics?

Both emphasize that the differences are the reason that the CDU should now also be represented at the top in its diversity.

The real reason, and this is not denied either, lies in Czaja's election result in Berlin in the federal elections.

Czaja conquered left stronghold

In the East Berlin constituency of Marzahn-Hellersdorf, his homeland, Czaja clearly defeated the local hero from the left, Bundestag Vice President Petra Pau. That was a real coup, because the district was considered a stronghold of the Left Party. Czaja's predecessor as a constituency candidate, former State Minister for Culture and Media Monika Grütters, lost to Pau four times between 2005 and 2017. Czaja clearly defeated the left-wing politician. He achieved more than 29 percent of the first votes, Pau just under 22. It was one of the few spectacular success stories in an election that had little to offer for the CDU.

However, Czaja, who grew up in Marzahn-Hellersdorf, had repeatedly won a direct mandate in the elections to the Berlin House of Representatives – he only lost once, against Left Party veteran Gregor Gysi. In the Berlin election in 2016, he received 47.2 percent of the first votes in his constituency - it was the best first vote result in Berlin ever. From an early age, Czaja was considered a “political prodigy” in the Berlin CDU.

However, he always had a hard time with the Berlin state association – it was too conservative and too old West Berlin for him.

Last summer he broke openly with the CDU's top candidate Kai Wegner;

that was a few months before the Berlin elections.

In his positions, Wegner is closer to the former head of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Hans-Georg Maassen, than to Chancellor Angela Merkel, said Czaja, and reprimanded the "risky legal course" of the Berlin CDU - an allegation that he was unable to substantiate.

His anger at his own party was mainly due to the fact that he was denied a promising place on the state list and that the east of the city once again fell behind despite good and promising candidates in the Berlin CDU.

CDU politician with a caregiver image

Freed from any party constraints, Czaja then relied entirely on himself, the CDU logo was deliberately kept very small on his posters.

The fact that he has always considered social policy important and has no reservations about contact with the Left Party apparently made it easy for previous Left-wing voters to vote for him this time.

As before, Czaja played out his caring image in Marzahn-Hellersdorf.

He is committed to the concerns of the citizens, regardless of whether it is about a pedestrian traffic light, a bypass or the new business park.

The married father of one daughter benefits from the fact that his homeland is no longer the typical prefab district from the GDR era; many young people and families have moved here.

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