Germany: Horst Seehofer to step down as Bavaria’s premier

Premier Horst Seehofer of Bavaria is set to step down but will remain head of the CSU as part of a party compromise. Intra-party conflict has made coalition building in Berlin difficult.

Horst Seehofer is ready to step down as Bavaria’s state premier before local elections next year in order to end an internal crisis within his Christian Social Union (CSU), the sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Senior CSU member Markus Ferber said on Monday that Seehofer would not be put forward as the top candidate on the CSU’s party list for the fall 2018 Bavarian election, meaning he will not be re-elected as Bavaria’s state premier. However, Feber said Seehofer would retain his position as party leader.

After meeting with senior party leaders on Sunday, Seehofer said a consensus had been reached that was “generally well received.”

Bavarian Finance Minister Markus Söder, a Seehofer rival, is a likely candidate to lead the party list. Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann, who is close to Seehofer, is reportedly now not going to stand, possibly to avoid intra-party conflict.

Struggle to form a coalition

Seehofer is expected to step down by the end of February, the broadcaster Bayerische Rundfunk reported, but not before federal coalition talks are completed in Berlin.

Party sources said the idea is not to weaken Seehofer’s position in coalition talks at the federal level, where he may end up as a minister.

Merkel’s CDU and the CSU are looking to enter coalition talks with the Social Democrats (SPD) for another “grand coalition” after preliminary coalition talks with the Free Democrats and Greens broke down last month.

The SPD is expected to make a decision this week on whether to enter formal talks with the conservatives.

Intra-party conflict within the CSU could complicate Merkel’s effort to form a new government. The other options would be for the conservatives to form a minority government or to call a new election. But both are considered problematic.

Seehofer has been under pressure to resign or give up some power after the CSU took a drubbing in September’s federal election, getting 38.8 percent of the Bavarian vote compared to 49.3 percent in the 2013 ballot.

The CSU operates only in Bavaria, but is allied with Merkel’s CDU at the national level. The two parties jointly conduct coalition talks.

However, differences within the conservative grouping have emerged over issues such as immigration, after the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) pulled votes from the CDU and CSU. Those differences have largely been patched up after the sister parties agreed on a tougher immigration platform.

rc,cw/ng (dpa, Reuters, AFP)/DW

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