Cross-Party Motion Considered
For the time being, though, the women of the CDU's parliamentary group are still looking for solutions that could be implemented before the federal elections in 2013. The most radical course of action would a cross-party group motion in the Bundestag, Germany's parliament. It sounds technical, but basically means that quota supporters from each party would join together to create a law. This tactic would likely give rise to a majority, since the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), environmentalist Green Party and far-left Left Party have all long supported a quota, and support is growing within the CDU's ranks as well -- even among the men.
At the Bundestag's working group on legal affairs last week, Michael Grosse-Bromer, the CDU's expert on legal matters, tried to bury the quota issue. The vast majority of the CDU opposes such a measure, he declared, but fellow parliamentarian Marco Wanderwitz interjected to say that plenty of men believe in a quota. Wanderwitz has since signed the "Berlin Declaration," a document calling for a 30 percent quota of women on supervisory boards for DAX-listed companies. The first signatures on the declaration include leading members from nearly all parties represented in the Bundestag, including SPD General Secretary Andrea Nahles, Labor Minister von der Leyen from the CDU, Left Party leader Gesine Lötzsch and Renate Kunast, chair of the Green Party's parliamentary group.
Initiators of the Berlin Declaration are planning to pay the chancellor a visit soon, and internally von der Leyen and other female members of the CDU's parliamentary group are considering using the document's momentum to organize a parliamentary majority in favor of the gender quota. "I could imagine a group motion as a last resort," says Rita Pawelski, chair of the CDU's women's group in the Bundestag. Dorothee Bar, deputy secretary general for the Christian Social Union (CSU), the CDU's Bavarian sister party, takes a similar line of argument: "Voluntary commitments haven't done any good, and I can't see a solution anymore without a legal component."
A Campaign Issue
But there's a catch to the idea of a group motion: It could easily bring about the collapse of the CDU-FDP coalition. As a rule, parliamentarians only cast their votes freely if their party leadership allows it, which happens only rarely. The Paragraph 218 amendment concerning abortion and a law concerning pre-implantation diagnostics are two past examples, but at the moment there is no indication that FDP parliamentary group leader Rainer Bruderle or his counterpart in the CDU, Volker Kauder, will define the quota issue as a matter of conscience.
Thus, Merkel's camp is considering another scenario, in which women in the CDU, CSU and FDP parliamentary groups would join forces to increase pressure on their respective party leadership in hopes that FDP Chair Rosler would eventually give in. This is little more than a pipe dream, though, because the number of gender quota supporters within the FDP's parliamentary group could be counted on one hand. The party still doesn't understand the quota issue, laments Doris Buchholz, national chair of the FDP's women's organization.
For this reason, Merkel is looking ahead to the federal elections in 2013. The chancellor has already indicated that the quota should be part of the CDU's election platform. "The quota needs to be anchored in the electoral platform at the latest," says Maria Bohmer, chair of the CDU's women's organization.
Still, the chancellor did oppose her labor minister this January, when von der Leyen called for strict regulations concerning the number of women in executive positions. But at the time Merkel did so in the interest of coalition harmony with the FDP. Since then, Merkel too has become convinced that nothing will change without applying pressure, Chancellery sources say.
That's a message von der Leyen is glad to hear. She herself is "indispensable" in the fight over the gender quota, the labor minister states in her office without a trace of false modesty. But it won't be possible without allies, she says.
Intellpuke: You can read this article by Spiegel journalists Ulrike Demmer, Peter Muller and Merlind Theile in context here: www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,820871,00.html
This article was translated from the German for Spiegel by Ella Ornstein.