CSU party conference in Augsburg: The CSU on the way to Söder’s fateful year

CSU party conference in Augsburg
The CSU on the way to Söder’s fateful year

In the sign of the CSU: Markus Söder at the party conference in Augsburg. photo

© Peter Kneffel/dpa

The CSU rarely attends party conferences in Augsburg. Party leader Söder has a clear and difficult task there. It’s about the party’s own compass and questions about the future in difficult times.

The longer Markus Söder’s speech lasts, the more it breaks out of him: anger at the traffic light government in the federal government, concerns about the incalculable consequences of the energy crisis and also frustration at criticism of his own work.

But the CSU boss knows that the delegates at the party conference want to hear more from him: They expect a compass for the coming months – answers to all the questions that people will ask them in the upcoming Bavarian state election campaign.

Of course, Söder cannot give all the answers to the questions that have not yet been asked in the future this Friday in Augsburg, but he is still trying to find a new orientation: “We take care of it, we can handle the crisis and we will do everything we can to ensure that Bavaria gets through these hard times are coming.” At the same time, he warns his party friends against too much “hubris” and arrogance, saying that this is a weakness of the CSU that must not be shown in the coming months: “It is important to govern now in a stable and secure manner. Please don’t take off.”

Söder promotes proximity and presence

Instead, the CSU must show its greatest strength: show a presence in the country close to the people, says Söder, and it seems a bit like an explanation for his own actions. For months, since the Corona crisis allowed it from Söder’s point of view, the Bavarian Prime Minister has been touring the Free State day in and day out, no celebration is too small for a visit, no topping-out ceremony too far away. So it is quite remarkable that Söder is practically 24 hours in one place because of the party congress.

Söder is not touring the country without reason: after the Corona years and the strict course in infection protection for which he was responsible for a long time, the connection to the citizens should get better again, true to the CSU motto “Closer to people”. Many – including those in the CSU – see this as a hidden pre-election campaign. 2023 is considered Söder’s fateful year. In autumn there will be elections in Bavaria.

The fact is, however, that Söder’s schedule has so far brought nothing countable for the CSU. In polls, the party has remained in the area of ​​the 2018 election result (37.2 percent) since March 2021, which Söder himself rated as a “painful result” from which the party must learn lessons. However, just in time for the party congress, a representative survey by the Forsa Institute delivered a value of 41 percent, which is psychologically important for the CSU – few in the party will be bothered by the fact that the survey was commissioned by the CSU.

“Söder works a lot, he works a lot, but he’s not everyone’s favorite,” a CSU board member tries to explain in a statement about the stagnant poll numbers. Other analyzes by members of the party leadership are more drastic: Söder and thus the CSU have a credibility problem.

Find the compass

This is often explained with the 180-degree turns in recent years. As a result, the compass of the CSU got confused. Examples include the extremely conservative course under Söder’s predecessor Horst Seehofer (with Söder’s participation) on the asylum issue, which once almost destroyed the Union community with the CDU, then the cuddle course towards the CDU to Söder’s “greening” of the CSU, including tree hugs and Sympathies for coalitions with the Greens.

Söder’s lost battle for the candidacy for the Union chancellor and the resulting bankruptcy in the federal election are still not digested. “Especially in the more reflective milieus, this caused a lot of confusion and also skepticism because of the lack of consistency,” according to high party circles.

First Söder staged himself as a modernizer with sentences like “Those who don’t keep up with the times, keep up with the times”, now he is also working on a renaissance of the “Bavaria against Berlin policy” out of concern for the conservative regular voters, demanding the return of those Nuclear power, the end of which he himself once propagated. A few weeks ago, Söder even conceded the women’s quota he himself had asked for, “completely without any need,” say critics who shake their heads.

But that’s not the only problem, you can hear. Ultimately, a convincing concept is missing, a coherent counter-proposal that goes beyond “keep it up in Bavaria” and “against the federal government”. Especially with a view to the state elections. “Whatever the CSU is now criticizing about the federal energy policy, after 16 years as part of the federal government, we are jointly liable,” says a board member. “We don’t lose our responsibility there, we can complain and point the finger at Berlin as we like.” For this reason, the CSU does not benefit in surveys from the weakening traffic light government in the federal government.

But what does that mean for the future? Until the election in autumn 2023, Söder will be firmly in the saddle. The CSU is famous for its loyalty until election day. Until then, it will be Söder’s luck that he has no Söder behind him, says a board member and at the same time describes another problem for the party. However, if the result falls below the 37 percent mark, the air will be thin – even if the CSU is still the clear number one in the country.


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