Bavaria elects new premier after CSU setback

28th October 2008, Comments 0 comments

The election marks the end of a 46-year era when the CSU, sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, ruled the prosperous southern state alone.

Munich -- Legislators in the German state of Bavaria elected a new premier, Horst Seehofer on Monday after the party he leads, the Christian Social Union (CSU), lost its absolute majority at the polls.

He comfortably won the vote by a 104-71 margin though four members of the new state coalition, comprising the CSU and the small pro-business Free Democrat Party (FDP), did not vote for him.

The election marks the end of a 46-year era when the CSU, sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, ruled the prosperous southern state alone.

Seehofer had resigned as German minister of agriculture and consumer affairs earlier Monday so he could take on the new post. Chancellor Angela Merkel has not announced who will replace him in her federal cabinet yet.

Commentators said that as farm minister over the past years, he had notably managed to calm farmers' anger over weak milk prices and EU policy, although milk prices still remain low.

As Bavarian premier, he is expected to wield considerable weight in national politics.

An accord was signed Monday with the FDP, which won seats in the Bavarian state assembly in a Sept. 28 poll for the first time in 14 years, and is take over the economy and science ministries.

The two parties plan to partly relax a strict ban on smoking in bars, which was blamed by many for the CSU's loss of one third of its traditional support at the state election.

After the loss in support to just 43 percent of the popular vote last month, the Bavaria-only CSU deposed both its former leader, Erwin Huber, and its state premier, Guenther Beckstein.

Seehofer took over both offices. He has promised to stand up for Bavarian interests against Merkel.

"This is definitely the high point of my political career," said Seehofer in the state assembly.

Monday's less-than-complete vote suggested his support was not rock-solid. Recriminations have continued in the CSU since the poll loss.

The two parties have 108 seats in the Bavarian legislature but it was unknown in who abstained in Monday's secret vote, spoiled their ballots or voted against him.

"I'm perfectly satisfied with my vote block," he said in a television interview.

DPA/Expatica

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