Germany's Stoiber leaves the political stage

27th September 2007, Comments 0 comments

27 September 2007, Berlin (dpa) - Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber, a major figure in German politics for more than a decade, is about to leave office for a job in Brussels aimed at cutting red tape in the European Union.

27 September 2007

Berlin (dpa) - Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber, a major figure in German politics for more than a decade, is about to leave office for a job in Brussels aimed at cutting red tape in the European Union.

Stoiber's departure was triggered by an unprecedented rebellion in his Christian Social Union (CSU), one of three parties that make up Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition in Berlin.

The silver-haired premier had come under fire for his autocratic style and his decision to seek a third term in state elections although he would have been 66 when the polls take place next year.

On Saturday, Stoiber bids farewell at a party congress which will see three candidates vying to replace him as CSU chairman, a position he held for eight years.

On October 9, his 14 years as Bavarian premier draw to an end when the state parliament in Munich is due to choose Interior Minister Guenther Beckstein as his successor.

One of trio seeking to succeed him as CSU chairman is Gabriele Pauli, a regional councillor who late last year was the first to publicly question whether Stoiber should continue to head the party.

A scandal ensued when it emerged that Stoiber's chief of staff began inquiring into Pauli's private life, apparently searching for intimate details that could be used to discredit her.

Another contender is Horst Seehofer, the federal agricultural minister who admitted to an extra-marital affair after his girlfriend gave birth to his child earlier this year.

But Bavarian Economics Minister Erwin Huber is tipped to become party boss in the state where the CSU has governed virtually unchallenged since 1946.

Stoiber's fall from grace began in November 2005 when he abandoned plans to become a minister in Merkel's cabinet after she formed a grand coalition with the opposition Social Democrats.

The decision not to move to Berlin disappointed his supporters who had hoped to see him become chancellor one day after narrowly failing to unseat incumbent Gerhard Schroeder in 2002.

"My primary political aims have always been the success and unity of the CSU, and the well-being and future of Bavaria," said Stoiber, whose party forms the Bavarian wing of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union.

Under his leadership, the state where some of Germany's leading companies have their headquarters, including Siemens and BMW, has cemented its position as one of the country's wealthiest.

A trim, bespectacled law graduate who abstains from alcohol, Stoiber was nicknamed the "Blonde Guillotine" for his ruthlessness, but his indomitable personality has also won affection.

His self-regard, fixed smile and readiness to speak off the cuff, even if he fluffs his words, have endeared him to many. A survey by Germany's n-tv news channel showed that 80 per cent of those polled regretted his decision to quit politics.

Born September 28, 1941 at Oberaudorf-am-Inn close to the Alps, Stoiber was an aide to the late Bavarian premier Franz Josef Strauss, then party general secretary from 1978 and became state premier in 1993. The CSU party leadership was added to his resume in 1999.

He was acclaimed for his campaign against Schroeder in 2002. Proud Bavarians comforted their native son the following year when they voted the CSU back to power by a landslide, with 60 per cent of the vote, enough to take two thirds of the state parliament.

At the pinnacle of his career, Stoiber was under discussion as a president of Germany or president of the European Union Commission.

Instead he will now become the head of a 15-member panel of experts from politics, science, the economy and lobby groups that will make suggestions on deregulation in Europe.

"My belief has always been that Europe has to become people- oriented and less bureaucratic," Stoiber said after learning of his new appointment.

"I'm happy that I can now put that into practice, as citizens and businesses all over Europe will gain a real advantage from the cutting of red tape."

In one of his final acts, Stoiber announced a deal Tuesday to build a new 37-kilometre high-speed magnetic levitation rail link between the centre of Munich and the city's airport at a cost of 1.85 billion euros (2.60 billion dollars).


Subject: German news

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