Merkel’s Popular Bavarian Ally Rules Out Chancellery Bid


Bavarian Premier Markus Soeder ruled out running to succeed Angela Merkel as German chancellor, saying he wants to focus on leading the southern German state despite a surge in his popularity on the national stage.

Soeder’s standing among voters has been burnished by what is widely perceived as an impressive performance during the coronavirus crisis, and the 53-year-old from Nuremberg is the second-most popular German politician behind Merkel. He is well ahead of other challengers to succeed her when her term ends in the fall of 2021, according to recent polls.

Soeder heads the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union. Traditionally, the CDU has fielded the conservative group’s chancellor candidate, and both times a CSU member ran -- Franz Josef Strauss in 1980 and Edmund Stoiber in 2002 -- they were unsuccessful.

“There are good reasons why the CSU has never provided the chancellor,” Soeder said in an interview with Bild am Sonntag newspaper. “I will help with all my strength to make sure things go well for Germany but my task is in Bavaria.”

Soeder reiterated his intention of staying put in comments to broadcaster ARD later on Sunday. Asked directly whether he would rule out running, he said: “My place is in Bavaria and so that is clear.”

“There was a recent poll in Bavaria in which a majority of Bavarians believed I could do a job like that in Berlin but the same majority wants me to stay in Bavaria,” he added. “And for me that’s really a very, very strong indication, a powerful argument. In addition, the CDU always has first rights on nominating a candidate.”

Possible Merkel successors from the CDU include North Rhine-Westphalia Premier Armin Laschet and former caucus leader Friedrich Merz. Social Democratic Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, who is the vice chancellor in the ruling coalition, and Greens co-leader Robert Habeck, are also in the running for the top job.

In a direct vote for chancellor, Soeder would win 41% of the vote, Habeck 20% and Scholz 14%, according to a Forsa poll for RTL/n-tv published Saturday. If Laschet were the conservative candidate, he would get only 19%, compared with 20% for Habeck and 19% for Scholz, the poll showed.

Soeder told Bild that there is no need for Merkel’s conservative bloc to rush to select its candidate. The CDU must first choose a new leader at a party meeting in early December after Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer decided to step aside.

“We’ll think about the timing of choosing the chancellor candidate after the CDU congress,” Soeder said. “It doesn’t have to be January, it also may not happen until March. A drawn-out election campaign with an active chancellor doesn’t make much sense.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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