INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Csu Party Convention Ushers-in Post-Stoiber Era

Published: Tue 2 Oct 2007 03:55 PM
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PP RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHLZ RUEHPOD
DE RUEHMZ #0560/01 2751555
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 021555Z OCT 07
FM AMCONSUL MUNICH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4140
RUCNMEU/EU INTEREST COLLECTIVE
RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MUNICH 000560
SIPDIS
SENSTIVE
SIPDIS
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV GM
SUBJECT: CSU PARTY CONVENTION USHERS-IN POST-STOIBER ERA
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. NOT FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION.
REFS: (A) MUNICH 403, (B) MUNICH 28
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SUMMARY
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1. (SBU) At the annual CSU party convention, Erwin Huber decisively
defeated Horst Seehofer and Gabrielle Pauli in the race to lead his
party forward. Delegates also overwhelmingly endorsed Guenther
Beckstein as the CSU's candidate for Bavarian Minister-President,
all but ensuring his election on October 9. Chancellor Merkel
praised the achievements of outgoing CSU Party Chairman and
Minister-President Edmund Stoiber, while expressing optimism about
her future working relationship with Stoiber's successors. Merkel's
optimism may be well-grounded, as both of Stoiber's successors,
while keeping "Bavaria first," will likely forge a closer working
relationship with the coalition government in Berlin than did
Stoiber.
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THE STOIBER ERA DRAWS TO A CLOSE
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2. (U) As expected, Bavaria's Christian Social Union (CSU)
celebrated its annual party convention September 28-29 with the
election of Bavarian Economic Minister Erwin Huber to succeed Edmund
Stoiber as the party's Chairman with 58 percent of delegates.
Huber's main rival for the party chief job, Federal Agriculture
Minister Horst Seehofer, came in second with 39 percent of the vote,
but was re-elected as one of four Deputy Party Chairmen, receiving
the support of 92 percent of the delegates. The other deputy
chairmen elected were: Beate Merk, Bavarian Justice Minister; Dr.
Ingo Friedrich, Member of the Presidium of the European Parliament;
and Barbara Stamm, Vice President of the Bavarian Landtag (state
legislature). Taking a conciliatory tone, Huber emphasized
Seehofer's importance to the party, and noted "the CSU's collective
intelligence."
3. (U) Coming in third in the race for party boss was the
controversial District Administrator from Fuerth, Gabriele Pauli,
winning only 24 out of 959 delegates. Already a long-shot candidate
for the Party Chairman job, Pauli's history of seeking the spotlight
in unpopular and sometimes bizarre ways appears to have sealed her
fate. Pauli's blistering internet attacks on Stoiber, her posing in
latex as a "dominatrix" for "Park Avenue" magazine, and her recent
proposal that marriages expire after only seven years unless renewed
(an idea the newspaper "Handlesblatt" compared to making Islam the
state religion of Catholic Bavaria) have left many wondering aloud
if she wouldn't feel more at home in a party other than the socially
conservative CSU.
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BECKSTEIN A STEP CLOSER TO MINISTER-PRESIDENT'S CHAIR
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4. (U) In addition to electing new party leadership, the CSU
delegates also designated Bavarian Interior Minister Guenther
Beckstein as the CSU's candidate for Minister-President with 97
percent of the vote, effectively guaranteeing he will succeed Edmund
Stoiber in the State Chancellery. Stoiber, who had occupied both
the Party Chairman and Minister-President positions simultaneously,
officially resigned as Minister-President effective September 30,
although he will remain "acting" Minister-President until his
successor is elected by the Bavarian Landtag on October 9. This
will be the first time in history both the CSU Party Chairman and
Minister-President positions will be held by two state-level
politicians.
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CHANCELLOR FAREWELLS STOIBER, EMBRACES HUBER
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5. (U) Giving the keynote address at the convention, German
Chancellor Angela Merkel saluted the departing Edmund Stoiber on his
66th birthday, saying Germany could learn from Bavaria's
accomplishments under Stoiber, while she also made a few
light-hearted jabs acknowledging the frequently strained
relationship between the two leaders. "It would be wrong to say
the time we have spent together has always been entirely
harmonious," she said, adding "Things have not always been easy with
you." She noted she had been "a bit disappointed" to read how
Stoiber had invited former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to his
private residence in Wolfratshausen recently, "because our breakfast
in Wolfratshausen seemed rather unique to me - and now I am no
longer sure."
6. (U) In her speech, Merkel confirmed she would defend the CSU's
demand for an increase in nursery care for children under three
years of age, and announced that she would commit herself to the
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implementation of the "Transrapid" maglev train project between the
Munich airport and central train station (Note: This has been one of
Huber's top priorities as Economic Minister). She said a technology
that had been invented in Germany should also be applied there -- or
else, it would not find a "broad market." Following Huber's
election as CSU chief, Merkel, issued a statement saying she looked
forward to "trusting and constructive cooperation" with Huber and
wished him "strength, the right touch, and God's blessing" in his
new office. The CDU welcomes a "strong and united CSU sister party"
at its side, Merkel added, noting that together the CDU-CSU will
succeed in "addressing challenges, exploiting opportunities, and
shaping a successful policy for the people in our country."
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STAYING THE COURSE
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7. (U) Both Beckstein and Huber made it clear they do not harbor a
radical agenda for the CSU or Bavaria. Huber said there was no need
of "reinventing the CSU," and told journalists that he will offer
the "same steadfastness and stubbornness" as his predecessor when
looking out for Bavarian interests. As a Lower Bavarian, he might
even be a bit "more obstinate" than Stoiber, he noted. Huber also
announced he will travel to Berlin more often than Stoiber, saying
his goal is a "clear Berlin presence." Huber has also previously
stated he would be interested in a federal position in Berlin
following the 2009 Bundestag elections.
8. (U) Beckstein said he intends to administer Stoiber's heritage,
while at the same time leaving his own mark. Indications are that
Beckstein will focus more on issues such as climate protection and
integration of immigrants than did Stoiber. Another area where
there may be some daylight between Beckstein and his predecessor is
in Bavaria's relations with its neighbors. Beckstein's acceptance
of an invitation to meet with Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek
three weeks ago, despite the thorny issue of Bavaria's large
population of Sudeten Germans, was something Stoiber was unwilling
to do. Both Beckstein (63) and Huber (61) will also face the
challenge of cultivating the next generation of party and government
leadership, given they themselves represent Stoiber's generation.
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COMMENT
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9. (SBU) While three candidates for Party Chairman might have made
this year's CSU convention unusual, there were few surprises that
came out of the event. More than anything, the convention
symbolizes a fresh start following the tenure of Edmund Stoiber at
the helm of Bavaria and the CSU. Huber and Beckstein will likely
"tinker around the edges," of policy, but are unlikely to take
Bavaria in a substantially different direction from the status quo,
which most Bavarians feel has brought them prosperity and an
enviable quality of life. The biggest difference may be felt in
Berlin. Huber's comments about a "clear Berlin presence," and
Beckstein's history of pragmatic dealings with opposition and
coalition leaders at the federal level (Ref B) suggests Chancellor
Merkel may have the most to gain from the new team in Bayern.
10. (U) This report has been coordinated with Embassy Berlin.
11. (U) Previous reporting from Munich is available on our SIPRNET
website at www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/munich/ .
NELSON
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