All eyes on the coronation of King Charles III. The CSU, on the other hand, meets – at the same time – to choose their top candidate Markus Söder. Its big test is near.
Not even a pint of beer that a CSU delegate promises his neighbor for a no vote can do anything about the result: Markus Söder is unanimously chosen at a party conference in Nuremberg as the top candidate for the state elections in October, after a speech lasting more than one and a half hours .
“Uh, yes,” says Söder. “I really, really, really want to thank you.” But the real test is yet to come. “Now he alone is responsible,” says a CSU board member. “Him alone.”
Söder calculates that there are still 3,728 hours until the state polling stations close on October 8th. Up to Söder’s most important test so far. As a reminder: So far, the CSU has not increased in any major elections under his leadership – on the contrary: in the state elections of 2018, half a year after Söder took office as Prime Minister, the CSU fell to 37.2 percent and lost the absolute majority in the state parliament – but what was attributed to Söder’s predecessor Horst Seehofer. In the 2021 federal election, the CSU slipped to 31.7 – which the CSU blamed on the Union’s top candidate Armin Laschet. The CSU was only able to keep its result constant in the 2019 European elections – which was commonly explained by the fact that the CSU, Manfred Weber, provided the Europe-wide EPP top candidate.
Söder – everywhere and thin-skinned
This time it is clear: Now Söder alone has to deliver. That probably explains why the 56-year-old takes the election so seriously and has been aligning everything accordingly for many months. Why he tries to get rid of all obstacles and potential dangers, right down to the wolf in the Bavarian Alps, which, according to a rushed and legally shaky regulation, can be shot easier for the time being. Why he tirelessly tours the country, almost never misses a fire brigade festival and no animal shelter goes unmolested. Why he floods Twitter and Co. with Söder photos from all parts of the country.
And why he reacts to criticism with increasing nervousness and sometimes with thin skin, even if it is only raised as a question. Most recently, for example, after a CSU board meeting, when Söder had to justify his push to continue operating nuclear power plants on his own. He responded with counter-questions and ended up barking at a journalist. He should have known that after the initiative, which even some CSU party friends exposed as an unrealistic electoral maneuver, not only well-meaning inquiries would come.
Actually, say well-meaning party friends, Söder doesn’t need to be so nervous. The CSU poll values are currently between 40 and 42 percent. And because the Free Voters are also consistently around ten percent, nothing stands in the way of the continuation of the coalition with the Free Voters.
The former minimum target of topping the 37.2 percent from 2018 is no longer enough for most Christian Socialists. It should be at least over 40 percent, that’s the general expectation since the surveys have been in these areas. And of course, says a veteran CSU man, Söder himself dreams – even if he would never admit it – of regaining the absolute majority. Even his predecessor Seehofer had done that in 2013.
Own accents are missing
But actually, several delegates agree, the surveys should look even better – if you look at Söder’s workload on the one hand and the increasing criticism of the traffic light on the other. A CSU board member suspects that three quarters of the increase compared to 2018 is due to the traffic light and only a quarter to Söder.
It is striking that Söder no longer has any major accents of his own. The multi-billion dollar high-tech agenda, even though highly praised by experts, is several years old and hardly suitable for an election campaign hit. And because of the Corona, Ukraine and energy crises, the financial leeway is narrower than before. It is questionable whether loud announcements of lawsuits – inheritance tax, state financial equalization and electoral law reform – will influence the election result.
The party leader is trying to mobilize his own supporters with a sharp anti-traffic light course. “Bayern deserves something better than a traffic light,” he shouts into the hall. Above all, he has his sights set on gender (“sheep shit”), on supposed “re-education fantasies” and on the Greens. On the other hand, he presents the CSU as conservative as in the old days. “We want to keep Bavaria as it is,” says Söder.
And what if the state election for Söder should actually be a success? Depending on the election result, sooner or later the K-question should come back to the tableau – even if Söder recently said quite clearly: “I’m not available there.” And what if something goes wrong in the end? We know from experience that if they guarantee success, the CSU stands by their leaders. If not, it can be over very, very quickly.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.