While Brussels is gradually switching into vacation mode, there is no political rest in sight in Bavaria.
Quite the contrary: a new poll released on Wednesday (18 July) shows the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) at its lowest level. Ever. Only 38% of the Bavarian electorate would vote for the CSU, that’s almost 10% down from the last regional election five years ago (47.7%).
It is safe to say that CSU’s leader Horst Seehofer’s attempt to push Merkel’s coalition government to the brink of collapse did not pay off.
Three months before the regional elections in Bavaria are to take place, the poll shows that the CSU has lost ground among women and older voters. According to the figures, the social-democrats from the SPD would come to a meagre 13%, and is clearly being outperformed by the Greens, who are expected to get 16% of the vote.
The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party would capture 12%, the liberals from the FDP 5 and the Left Party 4 %.
This means the CSU will only be able to govern in a coalition – an absolute nightmare for the two CSU political leaders, Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder and German Interior Minister and CSU-President Horst Seehofer. Both are striving to keep the party’s absolute majority by all means.
To make matters worse, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, has weighed in, in a rare intervention into politics. He told weekly newspaper Die Zeit in an interview that it was the wrong political approach to drift to the right simply because that was the spirit of the times.
Asked about the CSU’s policy stance, Marx said that a party that has chosen the ‘C’ in the name has an obligation, in the spirit of Christian social teaching, especially in its attitude towards the poor and the weak.
“Being a nationalist and a Catholic, that can’t be,” he added.
This is quite a blow for the two leaders: Half of Bavarians are Catholic and they form the backbone of support for the CSU. The loss of confidence in the governing party is catastrophic.
It is clear why the CSU is sagging so much. For weeks, the two Bavarian leaders led a never-seen-before charge against Angela Merkel over migration and a so-called “Masterplan on immigration” that fewer than ten people in Berlin had seen.
Horst Seehofer threatened to resign and then stepped back while Bavaria Prime Minister and top candidate Markus Söder raged against refugees and Germany’s chancellor.
What is not clear is how the two CSU leaders want to reverse the trend.
But Markus Söder, who made a name in Germany for his political ruthlessness and appetite for power, already is putting the blame on Seehofer. “Arguments never help,” he told the Bavarian newspaper Münchner Merkur. Clearly, the blame lays in Berlin, and from now on, the CSU will only focus on regional policy. And, yes: “We understand.”
This interview shows that top candidate Söder is now swallowing his pride and trying humility instead. This is strongly reminiscent of the beginning of his term, when he used the word “humility” in every other sentence, German political journalists observed.
And it sounds strange coming from him, they said, because until now, whenever he referred to humility, he always meant the others.
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Look out for…
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier will brief EU27 ambassadors about the ongoing talks. Expect the UK’s White Paper (probably the English version) to feature heavily in the meeting.
Views are the author’s