December 31, 2019 / 9:24 AM / 6 months ago

Bavarian leader Soeder quashes talk of German chancellery run

FILE PHOTO: Bavarian State Prime Minister and Christian Social Union (CSU) party leader Markus Soeder gives a news conference after a CSU board meeting in Munich, Germany, December 9, 2019. REUTERS/Michael Dalder

BERLIN (Reuters) - Bavarian leader Markus Soeder has dismissed speculation that he will run for chancellor, a month after giving a speech to Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) that re-ignited debate over who should succeed her as German leader.

Soeder, leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of Merkel’s CDU, delighted the CDU congress with a speech that raised hopes he would revive the fortunes of their alliance before Merkel, 65, steps down.

But Soeder, the Bavarian state premier, told the media group RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland in comments published on Tuesday that he was happy in his current role, putting the spotlight on Merkel’s protege, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

“My mother always said: ‘Cobbler, stick to your trade.’ And that’s Bavaria for me. My dream job is here,” Soeder said, adding that “Germans are really quite fond of the Bavarians”.

“But whenever they have the impression that a Bavarian wants to become chancellor, they worry that the Hofbraeuhaus (brewery) will be the future seat of government,” he added - a reference to the beer halls and gardens that to many symbolize Bavaria.

No chancellor has ever come from the CSU, although Franz Josef Strauss and Edmund Stoiber of the CSU were candidates in 1980 and 2002 respectively. Both elections were won by the Social Democrats.

Merkel, in power since 2005, has said she will not seek office again at the next national election, due in 2021. She helped Kramp-Karrenbauer, 57, become CDU leader with an eye on 2020, when the CSU-CDU will decide on a chancellor candidate.

But Kramp-Karrenbauer has made several gaffes since taking over as CDU leader last December that have hurt her popularity and raised questions about her suitability to be the next chancellor.

Soeder set out clear criteria for the Union’s chancellor candidate: “Ultimately, it has to be the person with the greatest chance of success. The spirit of the times, the program and the person must fit together,” he said.

Writing by Paul Carrel, editing by Larry King

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