The sound engineer has his hand on the controller, his sneakers tapping nervously under the mixer. He will soon set the soundtrack for this Sunday in Augsburg, for the state assembly of the CSU party youth. What marching music did the director think of for Markus Söder this time? Last time, Fall 2021, they played ACDC, “TNT”. At that time, the fuse in the Junge Union (JU) was dangerously short, and patience with its party leader was strained. And now, autumn 2022? The sound engineer drives the controller up. Ah, again: TNT.
Söder marches into the hall, the delegates clap, so far everything is peaceful. At the lectern he thanks for the music selection, the CSU boss apparently feared worse, “Highway to hell,” says Söder. If he was really nervous when he went to Augsburg, you could understand. What he experienced at JU, 2021 in Deggendorf, is one of the darkest chapters of his career. After the botched federal election, he was met with anger. The JU was so dissatisfied with its course that the delegates voted to remove the phrase “driver Markus Söder” from an application and replace it with the desire for a “team”. One called into the hall: “JU ended Söder’s one-man show today!”
A year later, the CSU is still a one-man show – and Markus Söder, the draft horse, is back in the saddle. Around 40 percent in polls, the CSU course is again significantly more conservative and less green, much less. The party youth like that, some of which were very disturbed by Söder’s green phase. Everything good again between party leader and JU? The CSU is “strongly managed,” says JU country chief Christian Doleschal. But he also says when he asks Söder to the desk: An appearance at the JU is always an “indicator” for a CSU boss. You want to tickle Söder a bit.
And Söder delivers. He says: “I don’t want black-green in Bavaria and there will be no black-green with me.” Bavaria should not become a “Berlin branch”, not a “sub-division of the traffic light”, Söder warns with a view to the state elections in 2023. He exclaims: “Bavaria will remain Bavaria and Bavaria also wants to remain independent.” The JU honors that. The applause is great. Especially when the CSU leader surprisingly buried an issue that had divided him and the party youth: the women’s quota. “We don’t need any more quotas in the party either,” says Söder.
In the end, JU boss Doleschal hands him the parting gift: a gingerbread heart. Even the discussion between delegates and party leader remains largely free of conflict. Someone wants to know whether Söder has given up the goal of an absolute majority for the CSU. Dissent flashes through for a moment. Söder is always trying to lower the bar for the Bayern election without naming a brand. Many in the JU, on the other hand, would like him to formulate the goals more confidently. But whether that is “wise, I have my doubts,” Söder replies. Political opponents shouldn’t be given the template to serve the reputation of arrogance that the CSU has repeatedly suffered from.
A man who has passed the maximum age for a JU membership ensures that the weekend in Augsburg is not only remembered peacefully: Party Vice Manfred Weber, 50, in whom some in the CSU see the one who could overthrow Söder, should the go to state election in the pants. On Saturday, day one of the JU meeting, Weber’s speech is almost over when he wants to get rid of something, “just as a reminder”. He recalls 2008, when CSU top candidate Günther Beckstein “didn’t become prime minister after the election,” but Horst Seehofer. In Bavaria, the fact that the top candidate automatically becomes prime minister is “not stipulated in the electoral law.” Söder, according to the CSU, was not amused.