Bavarian premier resigns after CSU poll loss
Guenther Beckstein is the second casualty of his party’s disastrous weekend election result.
Munich -- The leader of Bavaria, Guenther Beckstein, said he would step down, making him the second casualty of a disastrous weekend election setback for his conservative party, the Christian Social Union (CSU).
On Tuesday, the CSU party leader, Erwin Huber, had been the first to say he would leave. The CSU, a potent force in Germany's national politics, had elected the two men to their posts only a year ago.
Beckstein, 64, said at a news conference he would not be available to lead a planned coalition government in the state, because he lacked the "necessary degree of support" within the CSU.
The CSU, which had ruled the state alone for more than four decades and is a key party in Chancellor Angela Merkel's federal coalition, lost nearly one-third of its voter support on Sunday, slumping to 43 percent support.
Beckstein's departure triggered a succession battle among fellow CSU politicians. Three local CSU leaders have expressed interest in the job, Huber said after meeting with the state caucus, the body that makes the nomination.
Horst Seehofer, Germany's agriculture minister, is the frontrunner to take over Huber's post. Huber said Seehofer was available for the job.
While the party seemed to lose touch with its electorate, Beckstein's homespun ways, mischievous grin and ironic remarks about his own actions had made him a well-liked premier in Bavaria.
He once quipped, "We like cooperating with the federal government -- as long as they do what we say."
Efforts by the CSU to influence national politics have troubled Merkel in the past and political commentators said this week a new CSU leadership could prove unsettling in the remaining year before a federal election in September 2009.