Status: 04/30/2022 03:16 a.m
Gone are the days when CSU boss Söder hugged trees and called for a faster exit from fossil fuels. At the party congress, the CSU is focusing on foreign policy and classic conservative issues.
Legs hip-width apart, arms outstretched, both hands on the tree. The look: friendly and determined. This is how Markus Söder had himself photographed in the summer of 2019. A picture that should show: This man is serious about more environmental protection.
Tens of thousands more trees for Bavaria’s forests, more bicycle traffic, faster exit from coal – with these demands the CSU boss and Bavarian Prime Minister made headlines for a long time. In the meantime, however, his thrust has changed noticeably again.
Of trees and bees
The start of Söder’s green course was the popular initiative “Save the Bees”. In February 2019, 1.7 million people signed the referendum to protect Bavarian biodiversity – almost 20 percent of those eligible to vote in Bavaria. A number that also impressed Söder. The state parliament accepted the referendum at his suggestion.
Even then, Söder’s course was met with criticism within the party. At that time, the party leader was still considered a beacon of hope, unchallenged in the CSU. The party grudgingly supported his strategy of becoming greener, more modern and more feminine. At the time, Söder had identified the Greens as the main competitor and at the same time as a possible future coalition partner. The strategic goal was to compete with them and at the same time prepare the party for a coalition.
Turn to the conservative core clientele
At the latest with the disastrous CSU result in the federal election, the turning point began: a turn towards the conservative core clientele. The analysis of a party board member: The Christian Socialists lose regular voters through an eco-course, which they can by no means compensate for with “new voters”. Söder seems to have shared this view since then.
The CSU boss is now embracing the farmers – at least verbally: For example, with the demand to farm fallow land again – keyword security of supply in times of war in Ukraine.
Regarding energy policy, the leading motion for the party conference in Würzburg says: “We also have to extend nuclear energy as a bridging technology, massively push ahead with the construction of liquid gas terminals and further strengthen the focus on domestic energies such as hydropower, geothermal energy, photovoltaics, wind power and biomass.” The CSU provides regenerative energies with the term “home energies”. An attempt to give these green forms of energy a conservative touch.
Tedious struggle to relax wind power
In the middle of the week, the CSU parliamentary group fought its way through an hour-long meeting to relax the controversial 10H distance rule for wind turbines. It states that the minimum distance between a windmill and the next settlement must be ten times the height of the wheel. In the future, in priority areas, along motorways and multi-lane federal roads, in large forests and in industrial and commercial areas, wind turbines will only have to be 1000 meters away from residential buildings.
It took the prime minister some effort to get these exceptions through to MPs. The CSU parliamentary group has been signaling for some time that it supports almost everything, but no longer without resistance. Söder is no longer as undisputed as at the beginning of his tenure. The nervousness of the members of the state parliament is growing, in autumn 2023 the state elections are coming up. In 2018, the CSU fell to 37 percent – current polls see the party at a similar level. The party is a long way from an absolute majority as it used to be.
Party congress with a focus on foreign and security policy
There is still time for the CSU to devote itself not only to the Free State, but also to foreign and security policy. That is what the leading motion for the party congress is about. “As a party of the Bundeswehr, we are proud of our troops,” the paper says. Among other things, a “cyber booster” is required with the aim of not only operating “cyber defence”, but also being prepared for “cyber offensive capabilities”.
Conscription was once suspended under CSU Federal Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, and not all regular voters liked that. Now the CSU is using the opportunity to profile itself again as a “party of the troops”. An “economic NATO” is also being called for. An alliance of the EU, USA, other NATO countries and countries such as Canada, Israel and Australia.
With this leading motion, the CSU underpins its federal political claim. It is difficult enough for the Christian Socialists to get their voices heard in the opposition in Berlin. Next year everything should be about concentrating on Bavaria and the state elections – with a course on the core clientele and regular voters.