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ChairpersonArmin Laschet (CDU)
Markus Söder (CSU)
Parliamentary leaderRalph Brinkhaus (CDU/CSU Group)
Founded1949; 72 years ago (1949)
Youth wingYoung Union
Political positionCentre-right
European affiliationEuropean People's Party
International affiliationInternational Democrat Union
European Parliament groupEuropean People's Party
Colours  Black
State Parliaments
European Parliament
Ministers-President of states

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

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.[3] 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 been sharing 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. 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 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 become 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. For a short time, there existed the Christian People's Party of the Saarland [de] as sister party of the CSU during the 1957 West German federal election, the German Social Union (DSU) as sister party of the CSU before the 1990 East German general election, the East German CDU as sister party of the CDU until the German reunification and the Baden Christian-Social People's Party [de] until 1947. 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.

Political stances

The CDU and the CSU usually only differ slightly in their political stances. The CSU is usually considered a bit 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[7] 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.[8]

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.[9] 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.[10]

While both parties officially identify themselves as non-denominational Christian, the Catholic influence on the CSU is far 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.


The differences between the CDU and the somewhat more socially conservative CSU have sometimes led to conflicts in the past. These tensions climaxed during the 1970s when Helmut Kohl became CDU chairman in 1973, then considered a moderate or even progressive politician and also a personal foe of the right-wing then-CSU chairman Franz Josef Strauss, who had held that office since 1961.

Brief 1976 separation

After the CDU/CSU narrowly lost the 1976 West German federal election which had seen Kohl as the common chancellor candidate of the two parties, the CSU's future Bundestag representatives met on 19 November at a closed meeting at Wildbad Kreuth in a Hanns Seidel Foundation compound which is the CSU's educational foundation. With a 30-18 vote, one abstention and one invalid vote, the CSU deputies decided to separate from their common faction with the CDU deputies in the Bundestag. The decision had been initiated by the CSU chairman Strauss, then himself a Bundestag deputy. The official reasons were to create a more effective opposition (the CDU would approach moderate conservatives while the CSU would approach the right) and gain more speaking time in parliament.

As a party chairman, Strauss also announced that in addition the CSU as a party would terminate its self-restriction to Bavaria and foster the foundation of local CSU associations outside of the party's home state, running in all future German federal and state elections against the CDU on a distinctly more conservative platform than the CDU's. Strauss coined the term Vierte Partei ("fourth party") after the CDU, the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SDP) and the Free Democratic Party (FDP). This term was technically misleading since the CSU had always been a distinct party from the CDU, therefore four parties had already been represented during previous Bundestag terms.

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.

2018 refugee dispute

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.[11]

Leaders of the Group in the Bundestag

Electoral history

Federal Parliament (Bundestag)

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) 1,380,448 5.8 (#4) 31.0
1953 9,577,659 34.8 (#1) 10,016,594 36.4 (#1) 2,450,286 8.9 (#4) 2,427,387 8.8 (#4) 45.2
1957 11,975,400 39.7 (#1) 11,875,339 39.7 (#1) 3,186,150 10.6 (#3) 3,133,060 10.5 (#3) 50.2
Increase 28 Coalition
1961 11,622,995 36.3 (#2) 11,283,901 35.8 (#2) 3,104,742 9.7 (#4) 3,014,471 9.6 (#4) 45.4
Decrease 26 Coalition
1965 Ludwig Erhard (CDU) 12,631,319 38.9 (#2) 12,387,562 38.0 (#2) 3,204,648 9.9 (#3) 3,136,506 9.6 (#3) 47.6
Steady 0 Coalition
1969 Kurt Georg Kiesinger (CDU) 12,137,148 37.1 (#2) 12,079,535 36.6 (#2) 3,094,176 9.5 (#3) 3,115,652 9.5 (#3) 46.1
Decrease 1 Opposition
1972 Rainer Barzel (CDU) 13,304,813 35.7 (#2) 13,190,837 35.2 (#2) 3,620,625 9.7 (#3) 3,615,183 9.7 (#3) 44.9
Decrease 16 Opposition
1976 Helmut Kohl (CDU) 14,423,157 38.3 (#2) 14,367,302 38.0 (#2) 4,008,514 10.6 (#3) 4,027,499 10.6 (#3) 48.6
Increase 20 Opposition
1980 Franz Josef Strauß (CSU) 13,467,207 35.6 (#2) 12,989,200 34.2 (#2) 3,941,365 10.4 (#3) 3,908,459 10.3 (#4) 44.5
Decrease 17 Opposition
1983 Helmut Kohl (CDU) 15,943,460 41.0 (#1) 14,857,680 38.1 (#2) 4,318,800 11.1 (#3) 4,140,865 10.6 (#3) 48.7
Increase 18 Coalition
1987 14,168,527 37.5 (#2) 13,045,745 34.4 (#2) 3,859,244 10.2 (#3) 3,715,827 9.8 (#3) 44.2
Decrease 21 Coalition
1990 17,707,574 38.3 (#1) 17,055,116 36.7 (#1) 3,423,904 7.4 (#4) 3,302,980 7.1 (#4) 43.8
Increase 85 Coalition
1994 17,473,325 37.2 (#2) 16,089,960 34.2 (#2) 3,657,627 6.5 (#3) 3,427,196 7.3 (#3) 41.5
Decrease 25 Coalition
1998 15,854,215 32.2 (#2) 14,004,908 28.4 (#2) 3,602,472 7.3 (#3) 3,324,480 6.8 (#3) 35.2
Decrease 49 Opposition
2002 Edmund Stoiber (CSU) 15,336,512 32.1 (#2) 14,167,561 29.5 (#2) 4,311,178 9.0 (#3) 4,315,080 9.0 (#3) 38.5
Increase 3 Opposition
2005 Angela Merkel (CDU) 15,390,950 32.6 (#2) 13,136,740 27.8 (#2) 3,889,990 8.2 (#3) 3,494,309 7.4 (#6) 35.2
Decrease 22 Coalition
2009 13,856,674 32.0 (#1) 11,828,277 27.3 (#1) 3,191,000 7.4 (#6) 2,830,238 6.5 (#6) 33.8
Increase 13 Coalition
2013 16,233,642 37.2 (#1) 14,921,877 34.1 (#1) 3,544,079 8.1 (#4) 3,243,569 7.4 (#5) 41.5
Increase 72 Coalition
2017 14,027,804 30.2 (#1) 12,445,832 26.8 (#1) 3,255,604 7.0 (#6) 2,869,744 6.2 (#7) 33.0
Decrease 65 Coalition

European Parliament

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

See also


  1. ^ "Austria Greens in spotlight after strong election gains". RTL. Agence France-Presse. 30 September 2019. Retrieved 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. ^ "Federal Electoral Law". German Law Archive. Retrieved 18 December 2016.
  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 2017.
  6. ^ "Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) parliamentary group". German Bundestag. Retrieved 2017.
  7. ^ "Care money a complete success". (in German). Retrieved 2017.
  8. ^ "CDU health experts Spahn: Reform is an opportunity for black and yellow". (in German). 3 June 2010. ISSN 0174-4917. Retrieved 2017.
  9. ^ Wirtgen, Klaus (13 October 1997). "The Stoiber system". Der Spiegel. 42. Retrieved 2017.
  10. ^ GmbH, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (29 July 2017). "CSU chief Seehofer pounds on upper limit". Retrieved 2017.
  11. ^ Kingsley, Patrick (18 June 2018). "As Europe's Liberal Order Splinters, Trump Wields an Ax". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  12. ^ "Abgeordnete, Mitglieder und Fraktionsmitarbeiter - sie funktionieren als Ganzes und sorgen dafür, die Politik der Parteien in die Praxis umzusetzen" [Members of parliament, members of parliament and political group staff - they function as a whole and ensure that the parties' policies are put into practice]. CDU/CSU-Fraktion (in German). Retrieved 2017.

External links

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