World history in the making: leadership battle in the exhibition hall
When the 31st CDU party conference began on December 7, 2018, in the Hamburg exhibition hall A1, the tension had been building for weeks. In late October Chancellor Angela Merkel had announced that she would resign as party chair after more than 18 years and would not be a candidate for reelection in Hamburg. After that the media were full of speculation every day about her successor.
So it wasn’t surprising that the 1,001 party delegates were outnumbered by significantly more than 1,000 journalists from all over the world – ultimately this was about the German chancellor. And it was the first time in 47 years that there had been more than one candidate for the leadership of the Christlich Demokratische Union. The last occasion was in 1971, when Rainer Barzel won a leadership battle against Helmut Kohl, but then had to relinquish the chair to him not even two years later.
Helmut Kohl then held on to the post for 25 years, making him the only party chair to have led the CDU for longer than Angela Merkel. This time there were three candidates for the job: Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Friedrich Merz and Jens Spahn. Finally, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer narrowly beat Friedrich Merz.
It was primarily this election that generated so much attention for the 31st CDU party conference in Hamburg, probably more than for any other party conference in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany. It rather obscured the fact that resolutions were also passed on topics like migration, military spending, wind power, retirement benefits and modifications to diesel engines on December 7 and 8 in the Hamburg exhibition halls.
The technicians and exhibition builders needed six days for the assembly. In Hall A1 they built a conference room with 1,104 seats, stands for 1,126 guests, temporary offices, 436 press desks and camera platforms for interviews. Next door in Hall A4 were the catering and the exhibition stands of some 100 organizations and associations. Around 60 national and international TV stations had set up their outside broadcast trucks on the grounds.
Once the conference was over the technicians needed just 24 hours to take everything apart again.