Popular Bavaria Premier Indicates He Won’t Run to Succeed Merkel

Bavarian Premier Markus Soeder appeared to rule 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 his 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.”

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Other possible Merkel successors include Social Democratic Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, who is the vice chancellor in her ruling coalition, North Rhine-Westphalia Premier Armin Laschet of the CDU and Greens co-leader Robert Habeck.

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 am Sonntag there is no need for Merkel’s conservative bloc to rush to choose 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 could also happen only in March. A drawn-out election campaign with an active chancellor doesn’t make much sense.”

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