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Parliamentary leaderFriedrich Merz (CDU/CSU Group)
Founded1949; 75 years ago (1949)
Youth wingYoung Union
Political positionCentre-right
European affiliationEuropean People's Party
International affiliationInternational Democracy Union
European Parliament groupEuropean People's Party
  •   Blue (official)[a]
  •   Black (customary)
197 / 736
28 / 69
State Parliaments
610 / 1,894
European Parliament
29 / 96
Heads of State Governments
7 / 16
www.cducsu.de Edit this at Wikidata

CDU/CSU, unofficially the Union parties (German: Unionsparteien, pronounced [uˈni̯oːnspaʁˌtaɪən]) or the Union, is a centre-right[1] Christian democratic[2] and conservative[3] political alliance of two political parties in Germany: the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) and the Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU).

The CSU contests elections only in Bavaria, while the CDU operates in the other 15 states of Germany. The CSU also reflects the particular concerns of the largely rural, Catholic south.[4] While the two Christian Democratic parties are commonly described as sister parties, they have shared a common parliamentary group, the CDU/CSU Parliamentary Group, in the German Bundestag[5] (German: CDU/CSU-Fraktion im Deutschen Bundestag)[6] since the foundation of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949. According to German Federal Electoral Law, members of a parliamentary group which share the same basic political aims must not compete with one another in any federal state.[7]

The parties themselves officially remain completely independent with their own leadership and only few issue- or age-based joint organisations, which makes the alliance informal. However, in practice the committees of the parties harmonise their decisions with each other and the two parties run behind a common candidate for Chancellor, and the leader of one party is usually invited to party conventions of the other party.

Both the CDU and CSU are members of the European People's Party and the International Democrat Union. Both parties sit in the European People's Party Group in the European Parliament. The CDU and CSU share a common youth organisation, the Youth Union, a common pupil organisation, the Pupil Union of Germany [de], a common student organisation, the Association of Christian Democratic Students and a common Mittelstand organisation, the Mittelstand and Business association [de].



Both the CDU and the CSU were established after World War II and share a perspective based on Christian democracy and conservatism and hold the dominant centre-right position in the German political spectrum. The CSU is usually considered the de facto successor of the Weimar Republic–era Bavarian People's Party (BVP), which itself broke away from the all-German Catholic Centre Party (DZP) after World War I, but the CSU included also parts of the agrarian and liberal Bavarian Peasants' League and parts of the bavarian wing of the DVP. However the CDU's foundation was the result of a major re-organisation of the centre-right political camp compared to the Weimar Republic. Although the CDU was largely built as the de facto successor of the Centre Party, it successfully opened out to non-Catholic Christians (many of them affiliated with the German People's Party until 1933) and successfully asserted itself as the only major conservative party (outside of Bavaria) against initial competition from other Catholic, Protestant or national conservative parties such as the German Party during the early years of the Federal Republic.

The BVP became the sister party of the DZP and they did not compete against each other except for the May 1924 German federal election, the 1924 Bavarian state election and the 1925 German presidential election. The DZP and BVP were mostly jointly represented at the Imperial governments. Similarly to the modern CDU/CSU split, the Bavarian People's Party was generally seen as the party further to the political right, as evidenced by the 1925 second round of the presidential election when the Center Party backed Rhenish Catholic and Weimar Coalition candidate Wilhelm Marx while the BVP made common cause with the monarchist and nationalist parties in backing Prussian junker and former general Paul von Hindenburg despite him being a Protestant and the long-standing mutual animosity between Bavaria and Prussia.

For short periods of time, there existed

Alliance for Germany was a coalition for the 1990 East German general election consisting of the CDU, the DSU and Democratic Awakening which merged into the CDU.

CSU ambitions to become a nationwide party[edit]

CSU party rally in June 1976. On the right Franz Josef Strauß, the CSU leader since 1961, on the left Helmut Kohl, leader of the federal CDU since 1973 and main candidate for the general elections in October 1976.

During the 1970s and then again after 2015, several CSU leaders have expressed the wish to make the CSU a truly independent party without formal ties to the CDU. Usually they combined this wish with an expansion to the rest of Germany.

After 1969, CDU and CSU were in the opposition in the Bundestag. CDU leader Kohl wanted to win the liberal FDP again for a coalition with the CDU/CSU, while the CSU leader Strauß had different plans. He aimed for a right wing majority without the FDP. Additionally, Strauß thought little of the current CDU leader Kohl, a more moderate Christian Democrat.

Strauß believed that CDU and CSU should be separate national parties to address different audience: the CDU the moderate, social and liberal voters, the CSU the conservative voters. After the elections they should still form a government together.

In 1975, the federal CDU declared Kohl to be the next CDU/CSU chancellor candidate for the 1976 general elections – without consulting the CSU.[8] Kohl did well in the elections on October 3, 1976, although Social Democrats and FDP had still enough seats to continue their coalition. Kohl decided to leave his post as prime minister of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate for the chairmanship of the CDU/CSU Bundestag faction.

The Hans-Seidel-Stiftung is a political foundation linked to the CSU. From 1975 to 2016, it had an educational centre in this building in the municipality of Kreuth, close to the Austrian border. For decades, spirit of Kreuth was a reference to an independent, conservative CSU.

In November that year, the 49 CSU Bundestag members gathered in the party's educational centre in Wildbad Kreuth, Southern Bavaria. 30 of them voted for a proposal to form a CSU Bundestag parliamentary group of its own. CDU leader Kohl was informed only later via the media.[9] This 'Kreuth separation decision' (Kreuther Trennungsbeschluss) was a major political earthquake and caused the CDU to react swiftly and resolutely. Kohl threatened the CSU by preparing the creation of a CDU party organization in Bavaria. In March 1977, the CDU Bayern was supposed to be founded in Nuremberg.[10]

During the conflict, the Aktionsgemeinschaft Vierte Partei, the Bund Freies Deutschland (West-Berlin), the Christlich Soziale Wähler Union (Saarland), the Deutsche Union (North Rhine-Westphalia) and the Partei Freier Bürger (Bremen) were founded. On 12 December 1976, the vote was rescinded after the CDU had threatened in turn to form local associations within Bavaria and to run in Bavarian elections against the CSU.

Strauß himself polemicised against Kohl in a closed CSU meeting on November 24 (this Wienerwald speech was leaked, and published on November 29 in Der Spiegel):

That Helmut Kohl will never become chancellor. Being 90 he will write his memoirs: 'I was chancellor candidate for 40 years; lessons and experiences from bitter times.' The last chapter written maybe in Siberia or elsewhere.

— Franz Josef Strauß[11]

It turned out that most local CSU leaders and also conservative CDU state leaders did not approve a separation between CSU and CDU. The CSU Bundestag members revoked their decision. On December 7, the CDU/CSU Bundestag group elected Kohl as its chairman.[12] In 1980, Strauß was the joint CDU/CSU chancellor candidate and lost more than 4 percent of the votes. This ended his ambitions for a federal CSU.

Tensions in 2016–2021[edit]

The Munich scandal of November 2015: Horst Seehofer, CSU leader and Bavarian minister-president, with CDU leader and chancellor Angela Merkel, at the 2015 CSU party rally. At this occasion, Seehofer humiliated his guest by letting her stand next to him for minutes while he lamented her liberal politics with regard to refugees.[13]

Under the chairmanship of Angela Merkel (2000–2018), the CDU left some right wing positions behind and shifted more to the political centre. Especially the 2015 refugee crisis divided the German population and caused conflict between the CDU and the CSU.[citation needed]

Therefore, a federal CSU was discussed again among party members and journalists. For example conservative Welt columnist Ansgar Graw wrote in 2016 that CDU and CSU lost its stance as a law and order party. As Merkel's CDU could not move to the right without losing credibility, Graw called the CSU to become a federal party, a right wing party that rigorously deports asylum seekers without right to stay.[14] On the contrary, former CSU leader Theo Waigel warned against a separate election campaign. In such a campaign, CDU and CSU would fight much more each other than the rest of the parties.[15]

In 2018, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, a former Minister-President of Bavaria and the leader of the CSU, opposed CDU Chancellor Angela Merkel's policy on Syrian refugees in Germany. Seehofer hoped to place restrictions on incoming refugees, many of whom enter the country through Bavaria. His stance was seen as being in part motivated by the 2018 Bavarian state election in which it was feared that the far-right Alternative for Germany would make gains. The dispute threatened to bring down the Merkel government which relied on the CSU for its parliamentary majority as Seehofer had indicated his resignation on 2 July, but he already rescinded it a day later after an agreement over the issue between the coalition parties (the CDU, the CSU and the SPD) had been reached.[16]

In June 2018, CDU and CSU Bundestag members held separate meetings on the topic of refugees, which was highly unusual. A fake Twitter account announced that CSU leader Seehofer had abolished the CDU/CSU alliance and that CDU vice chair Bouffier had called for a CDU in Bavaria. Many journalists published the news, which was interpreted by the Merkur as a sign that such events are considered no longer absurd or unlikely.[17] Political scientist Heinrich Oberreuter did not believe in Seehofer's threat to expand the CSU to the rest of Germany. Both parties aim essentially for the same voters. As separate parties in the general elections both would lose voters. The CSU would lose its unique selling point as a Bavarian party. With a CDU in Bavaria, the CSU would fall from 47 to 30 percent in Bavaria.[18]

A federal CSU was again discussed prior to the general elections of 2021. CSU leader Markus Söder was unhappy about the CDU decision to declare CDU leader Armin Laschet the chancellor candidate and successor of Angela Merkel. In September 2020, the CSU created online memberships for people not living in Bavaria. A survey in May 2021 foresaw that a federal CSU may win at least 9 percent of the votes, especially in Eastern Germany and among FDP voters.[19]

Both parties suffered heavy losses in elections after 2017. In the Bavarian state elections of October 2018, the CSU lost 10.5 percent. With 37.2 percent, this was its worst election result since 1950. In the federal elections of 2021, the CDU lost 7.9 percent and the CSU 1.0 percent of the (party list) votes.

Political stances[edit]

The CDU and the CSU usually only differ slightly in their political stances. The CSU is usually considered more socially conservative (especially on family issues, e.g. the CSU favors providing infants' parents with compensation (Betreuungsgeld) if they intend not to use the public day nursery system to work[20] while the CDU favors public funding of day nurseries). The CSU government in Bavaria has implemented one of the strictest regulations for shopping hours in Germany in order to protect employees. The CSU also strongly opposed ideas of an income unrelated system of contributions to public health insurances, a proposal which met a lot of approval in the CDU in 2010.[21]

CSU politicians often make their mark as self-declared defenders of Bavaria's state rights and cultural independence from federal or European Union bureaucrats, even in times of conservative federal governments or conservative presidents of the European Commission. In 1998, then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl of the CDU had to pressure the CSU intensely not to veto the introduction of the euro as the new currency in Germany.[22] On the other hand, the name euro was the idea of former CSU chairman Theo Waigel, who served as finance minister when the euro was introduced and held a very pro-European position in contrast to the Bavarian government of Edmund Stoiber. Since 2016, the CSU has strongly been advocating the idea of a maximum number (Obergrenze) of 200,000 people per year to limit the number of asylum seekers. This is opposed by the CDU because they claim that it is impossible to limit the number through border control.[23]

While both parties officially identify themselves as non-denominational Christian, the Catholic influence on the CSU is stronger than that on the CDU since Bavaria is predominantly Catholic while Christians in Germany as a whole are approximately equally balanced between Catholics and Protestants. There are nevertheless strong regional differences within Bavaria and Germany as a whole with large predominantly Protestant areas in northern Bavaria and large predominantly Catholic areas in North Rhine-Westphalia and South Western Germany having a strong effect on CDU state politicians. Saarland's former CDU Minister-President Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer heavily opposed same-sex marriages in July 2017 while the CDU in Schleswig-Holstein was in favor, with Saarland having the largest share of Catholic Christians in any German state.

Forms of cooperation[edit]

CDU and CSU are two separate parties with separate organization. While the CDU is a federal party with members and local affiliations in 15 of the 16 German states, the CSU has members and affiliations only in Bavaria. (CSU online members live outside of Bavaria but have no vote within the party.) Also, the CDU runs only in regional and local elections outside of Bavaria. Both parties do have party lists for the general (federal) elections to the Bundestag: the CDU has 15 lists in each of the 15 non-Bavarian states, the CSU only in Bavaria.

Since 1972, both parties agreed a joint election manifesto for the federal elections. Sometimes the CSU additionally published a manifesto of its own.[24] Both parties always gather behind a joint candidate for the chancellorship. There is no approved procedure to select this candidate, creating tensions between both parties from time to time. During the federal campaign, the CSU may decide to present mainly Bavarian candidates on the election posters and not the CDU joint chancellor candidate,[25] and the popular candidates of the CDU may decide not to show up in the Bavarian campaign.

Both parties together form a parliamentary group (Fraktion) in the Bundestag. Such a Fraktionsgemeinschaft is legal because both parties are no competition of each other during the elections (the voters can nowhere decide between a CDU and a CSU candidate). The Fraktionsgemeinschaft (parliamentary group alliance) works on the basis of a Fraktionsvertrag (parliamentary group agreement) with some special provisions for the CSU, e.g. with regard to speaking time in the Bundestag.

The parliamentary group has one chair and one or more vice chairs (12 in the 2021 Bundestag). The chair has always been a CDU member. The First Deputy chair is ex officio the leader of the CSU-Landesgruppe. The Fraktion is divided into 16 Landesgruppen (state groups), comprising the Fraktion members per state. The CSU-Landesgruppenchef is considered one of the most prolific members of the Bundestag parliamentary group. Historically, most of these politicians have become members of the federal government.

CDU and CSU always take part in coalition negotiations together, although they behave like two different parties. Both parties join a federal government coalition together; there has never been only one of them in government. At least one major government department is 'given' to the CSU. In the past, the CSU often lead the departments for postal services (when this ministry still existed), transportation, constructions, or agriculture.

In European elections, CDU and CSU have separate party lists. In the European Parliament, they form a group within the parliamentary group of the European People's Party.

Leaders of the Group in the Bundestag[edit]

Electoral history[edit]

Federal Parliament (Bundestag)[edit]

Election Chancellor candidate CDU CSU CDU/CSU Government
Constituency Party list Constituency Party list % Seats +/–
Votes % Votes % Votes % Votes %
1949 Konrad Adenauer (CDU) 5,978,636 25.2 1,380,448 5.8 31.0
139 / 402
1953 9,577,659 34.8 10,016,594 36.4 2,450,286 8.9 2,427,387 8.8 45.2
249 / 509
Increase 110 Coalition
1957 11,975,400 39.7 11,875,339 39.7 3,186,150 10.6 3,133,060 10.5 50.2
277 / 519
Increase 28 Coalition
1961 11,622,995 36.3 11,283,901 35.8 3,104,742 9.7 3,014,471 9.6 45.4
251 / 521
Decrease 26 Coalition
1965 Ludwig Erhard (CDU) 12,631,319 38.9 12,387,562 38.0 3,204,648 9.9 3,136,506 9.6 47.6
251 / 518
Steady 0 Coalition
1969 Kurt Georg Kiesinger (CDU) 12,137,148 37.1 12,079,535 36.6 3,094,176 9.5 3,115,652 9.5 46.1
250 / 518
Decrease 1 Opposition
1972 Rainer Barzel (CDU) 13,304,813 35.7 13,190,837 35.2 3,620,625 9.7 3,615,183 9.7 44.9
234 / 518
Decrease 16 Opposition
1976 Helmut Kohl (CDU) 14,423,157 38.3 14,367,302 38.0 4,008,514 10.6 4,027,499 10.6 48.6
254 / 518
Increase 20 Opposition
1980 Franz Josef Strauss (CSU) 13,467,207 35.6 12,989,200 34.2 3,941,365 10.4 3,908,459 10.3 44.5
237 / 519
Decrease 17 Opposition (1980–82)
Coalition (1982–83)
1983 Helmut Kohl (CDU) 15,943,460 41.0 14,857,680 38.1 4,318,800 11.1 4,140,865 10.6 48.7
255 / 520
Increase 18 Coalition
1987 14,168,527 37.5 13,045,745 34.4 3,859,244 10.2 3,715,827 9.8 44.2
234 / 519
Decrease 21 Coalition
1990 17,707,574 38.3 17,055,116 36.7 3,423,904 7.4 3,302,980 7.1 43.8
319 / 662
Increase 85 Coalition
1994 17,473,325 37.2 16,089,960 34.2 3,657,627 6.5 3,427,196 7.3 41.4
294 / 672
Decrease 25 Coalition
1998 15,854,215 32.2 14,004,908 28.4 3,602,472 7.3 3,324,480 6.8 35.2
245 / 669
Decrease 49 Opposition
2002 Edmund Stoiber (CSU) 15,336,512 32.1 14,167,561 29.5 4,311,178 9.0 4,315,080 9.0 38.5
248 / 603
Increase 3 Opposition
2005 Angela Merkel (CDU) 15,390,950 32.6 13,136,740 27.8 3,889,990 8.2 3,494,309 7.4 35.2
226 / 614
Decrease 22 Coalition
2009 13,856,674 32.0 11,828,277 27.3 3,191,000 7.4 2,830,238 6.5 33.8
239 / 622
Increase 13 Coalition
2013 16,233,642 37.2 14,921,877 34.1 3,544,079 8.1 3,243,569 7.4 41.5
311 / 631
Increase 72 Coalition
2017 14,027,804 30.2 12,445,832 26.8 3,255,604 7.0 2,869,744 6.2 32.9
246 / 709
Decrease 65 Coalition
2021 Armin Laschet (CDU) 10,445,571 22.6 8,770,980 19.0 2,787,904 6.0 2,402,826 5.2 24.1
197 / 735
Decrease 50 Opposition

European Parliament[edit]

Votes % Votes % % Seats +/–
1979 10,883,085 39.1 (#2) 2,817,120 10.1 (#3) 49.2
40 / 78
1984 9,308,411 37.5 (#1) 2,109,130 8.5 (#3) 46.0
39 / 78
Decrease 1
1989 8,332,846 29.5 (#2) 2,326,277 8.2 (#4) 37.7
31 / 78
Decrease 8
1994 11,346,073 32.0 (#2) 2,393,374 6.8 (#4) 38.8
47 / 99
Increase 15
1999 10,628,224 39.3 (#1) 2,540,007 9.4 (#4) 48.7
53 / 99
Increase 6
2004 9,412,997 36.5 (#1) 2,063,900 8.0 (#4) 44.5
49 / 99
Decrease 4
2009 8,071,391 30.7 (#1) 1,896,762 7.2 (#6) 37.9
42 / 99
Decrease 7
2014 8,807,500 30.0 (#1) 1,567,258 5.3 (#6) 35.4
34 / 96
Decrease 8
2019 8,437,093 22.6 (#1) 2,354,816 6.3 (#5) 28.9
29 / 96
Decrease 5

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Since 2021


  1. ^ "Austria Greens in spotlight after strong election gains". RTL. Agence France-Presse. 30 September 2019. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  2. ^ Lawrence Ezrow (2011). "Electoral systems and party responsiveness". In Norman Schofield; Gonzalo Caballero (eds.). Political Economy of Institutions, Democracy and Voting. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 320. ISBN 978-3-642-19519-8.
  3. ^ Alipour, Nick (11 August 2023). "Road to the chancellery: German conservatives battle for top position". Euractiv. Retrieved 18 May 2024.
  4. ^ "Christian Democrat Union/Christian Social Union". Country Studies, Germany. Retrieved 18 December 2016.
  5. ^ "Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) parliamentary group". German Bundestag. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  6. ^ "Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) parliamentary group". German Bundestag. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  7. ^ "Federal Electoral Law". German Law Archive. Retrieved 18 December 2016.
  8. ^ Hans Peter Schwarz: Helmut Kohl. Eine politische Biographie. DVA, Munich 2012, p. 228.
  9. ^ Hans Peter Schwarz: Helmut Kohl. Eine politische Biographie. DVA, Munich 2012, pp. 249/250.
  10. ^ Hans Peter Schwarz: Helmut Kohl. Eine politische Biographie. DVA, Munich 2012, pp. 251–254.
  11. ^ Heinrich August Winkler: Der lange Weg nach Westen: Deutsche Geschichte vom «Dritten Reich» bis zur Wiedervereinigung. 4th edition. Volume 2. C. H. Beck, Munich 2002,, pp. 342.
  12. ^ Hans Peter Schwarz: Helmut Kohl. Eine politische Biographie. DVA, Munich 2012, pp. 254/256.
  13. ^ Robert Birnbaum: Der Eklat von München. In: tagesspiegel, 20th November 2015, last seen 9th May 2022.
  14. ^ Ansgar Graw: Lasst die CSU bundesweit antreten! In: Welt Online. 16 October 2017, last seen 9 May 2022.
  15. ^ Waigel nennt bundesweite CSU "Katastrophe für die Union". In: Tagesspiegel. 12 May 2017, last seen 9 May 2022.
  16. ^ Kingsley, Patrick (18 June 2018). "As Europe's Liberal Order Splinters, Trump Wields an Ax". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  17. ^ Florian Neumann: "Dann können wir das Licht ausmachen": CSU-Politiker hoffen und bangen im Asyl-Streit. In: Merkur.de. 16 June 2018, last seen 9 May 2022.
  18. ^ Experte: "Bundesweite Ausdehnung würde die CSU 15 Prozent in Bayern kosten". In: Focus.de. 12 June 2018, last seen 9 May 2022.
  19. ^ CSU käme auf mindestens 9 Prozent. In: FAZ.net. dpa, 4 May 2021, last seen 9 May 2022.
  20. ^ "Care money a complete success". csu.de (in German). Retrieved 25 September 2017.
  21. ^ "CDU health experts Spahn: Reform is an opportunity for black and yellow". sueddeutsche.de (in German). 3 June 2010. ISSN 0174-4917. Retrieved 25 September 2017.
  22. ^ Wirtgen, Klaus (13 October 1997). "The Stoiber system". Der Spiegel. Vol. 42. Retrieved 25 September 2017.
  23. ^ GmbH, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (29 July 2017). "CSU chief Seehofer pounds on upper limit". Faz.net. Retrieved 25 September 2017.
  24. ^ CSU-Programme zu den Bundestagswahlen, Hans-Seidel-Stiftung, last seen 9 May 2022.
  25. ^ Luisa Billmayer: "Nicht nur den Armin zeigen": Söder will für die Bundestagswahl offenbar auch eigene Plakate. In: Frankfurter Rundschau, 16 May 2021, last seen 9 May 2022.

External links[edit]