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Cablegate: Bavaria's Csu - Palace Politics Play On

VZCZCXRO6483
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMZ #0403/01 1900942
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 090942Z JUL 07
FM AMCONSUL MUNICH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4024
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MUNICH 000403

SIPDIS

SENSTIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV GM
SUBJECT: BAVARIA'S CSU - PALACE POLITICS PLAY ON

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. NOT FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION.

REF: Munich 28

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) It now appears all but certain that Interior Minister
Beckstein will succeed Edmund Stoiber as Minister-President.
Further, it appears that federal Agriculture Minister Seehofer's
personal problems and negative campaign style have given Bavarian
Economic Minister Huber a decisive, if not insurmountable, edge in
the race for the Chairmanship of the CSU. Perhaps the greatest
challenge facing the CSU at this point is a dearth of ideas. The
CSU of late appears to be more a soap opera than a platform for
relevant debate, particularly on issues of national importance. End
summary.

---------------------------------------
THE MAN WHO WOULD BE MINISTER-PRESIDENT
---------------------------------------

2. (SBU) On July 17, Edmund Stoiber is expected to give his final
government declaration as Bavarian Minister-President. Two days
later, the CSU Landtag (state assembly) caucus will, barring some
unforeseen circumstance, officially nominate Interior Minister
Guenther Beckstein (63) as its Minister-President candidate. During
a special Landtag session on October 9, Beckstein is all but certain
to be elected Minister President. He would present his new cabinet
on October 16. Despite the appearance of a fait-accompli for
Beckstein, he is taking nothing for granted. He has come close to
sitting in the Minister-President's chair twice before - once when
Stoiber ran for Federal Chancellor in 2002 and lost to Gerhard
Schroeder, and again in fall of 2005 when Stoiber returned
unexpectedly to Bavaria after rejecting a cabinet position in
Berlin. Interior Ministry sources tell us that they have been
instructed to be extremely vigilant so as to avoid creating any
negative publicity for Beckstein between now and October 9.

------------------
THE PARTY CHAIRMAN
------------------

3. (SBU) In addition to handing over the reins of the State
Chancellery to Beckstein, Stoiber will also give-up his other role
as CSU Party Chairman. Unlike the Minister-President position,
there are two men competing for the mantle of CSU party chief -
Bavarian Economic Minister Erwin Huber (61), and Federal Agriculture
Minister Horst Seehofer (58). At this stage, the smart money is on
Huber. He enjoys the support of Beckstein and the party leadership.
Additionally, the Landtag caucus and the CSU's youth organization,
the "Junge Union," clearly favor Huber over Seehofer. Further,
Huber's district of Lower Bavaria just reelected him CSU District
Chairman with a 98 percent majority.

4. (U) Seehofer's base is not as clear, and appears to be
diminishing. Until recently, polls showed he enjoyed the support of
a majority of the CSU rank and file - but no longer. Both Stoiber
and CSU Bundestag Caucus Chairman Peter Ramsauer have hinted at
support for Seehofer, but nothing definitive as an endorsement. In
addition to lacking Huber's notable endorsements and poll numbers,
Seehofer faces questions over the conduct of his personal life and
some well-publicized campaign gaffes. Most notably, Seehofer (with
a wife and three kids in Ingolstadt) has kept a mistress in Berlin
who recently gave birth to his child. Not surprisingly, this saga
has not played well within the socially-conservative and largely
Catholic CSU. In an apparent attempt to divert attention from his
private life, Seehofer then allegedly threatened to reveal secrets
about the private lives of other CSU leaders. He has also overtly
implied that Huber was too provincial in his outlook for the job -
moves which cost him support in the party.

--------------------------
COUNTING DOWN TO SEPTEMBER
--------------------------

5. (U) The new party chairman will be elected at the CSU party
convention September 29. The winner will then pick a new party
Secretary General. The CSU will also adopt its new party platform

SIPDIS
at the convention. Before then, all seven CSU districts will have
held their bi-annual conventions over the summer. The most
significant is Upper Bavaria (southern Bavaria, including greater
Munich), which held its convention on June 30. At the gathering,
retiring Landtag President Alois Glueck turned over the reins after
15 years as District Chairman to Bavarian Education Minister
Siegfried Schneider, who defeated Bavarian Science Minister and
ex-CSU Secretary General Thomas Goppel. This outcome is viewed by
many within the CSU as a rejection of Goppel's strong personal
ambitions in favor of Schneider's avoidance of the spotlight and
focus on the good of the party - reinforcing the notion that CSUers

MUNICH 00000403 002 OF 002


put a premium on party loyalty and discipline.

-------
COMMENT
-------

6. (SBU) Beckstein will not represent a generational change nor a
sea change in terms of policy (REFTEL) - he will be a transitional
figure. Huber may have a relatively provincial outlook as Seehofer
implied - but no more so than would be expected for a CSU leader -
"Freistaat Bayern" will always come first for Germany's only
one-state party. However, Huber will likely prove a more reliable
partner for Merkel's grand coalition than Stoiber. He had been
Merkel's first choice to head the Federal Chancellery following the
2005 elections - a post he turned-down, given the possibility he
would succeed Stoiber as Minister-President had Stoiber remained in
Berlin.

7. (SBU) Perhaps more than anything else, the recent history of the
CSU has been an example of the triumph of personality over ideas.
One would be hard pressed to identify which issues of substance --
particularly of national consequence -- differentiate the
candidates. This situation may simply be indicative of an
entrenched party with a long-time absolute majority and no real
competition to create a battle of ideas (according to a recent FORSA
poll - in state elections, the CSU could count on 56 percent of the
vote to the SPD's 16 percent). Ironically, what might best
stimulate a more dynamic CSU would be political competition
breathing down its neck - something not on the foreseeable Bavarian
horizon.

8. (U) This report has been coordinated with Embassy Berlin.

9. (U) Previous reporting from Munich is available on our SIPRNET
website at www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/munich/ .

NELSON

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