Bavaria's next leader The Duel for the Crown

Two main contenders have emerged in the fight to replace Horst Seehofer as prime minister of Bavaria, and the race is hotting up.
The sun doesn't always shine on Ilse Aigner.

The Kingdom of Bavaria was only ever ruled by a single dynasty. Today, those living in the modern, wealthy state that succeeded it may well be craving the peace and quiet of such stability.

As the race to succeed state prime minister Horst Seehofer intensifies, his wannabe political heirs in the Christian Social Union party, Ilse Aigner and Markus Söder, are beginning to make waves.

Ms. Aigner, the somewhat reserved deputy prime minister and minister of economic affairs, has been making TV appearances loudly extolling the virtues of the minimum wage and last week urged federal Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble to reform the inheritance tax friendly to Germany’s middle classes.

And on state issues, she called the construction of a third runway at Munich’s airport “the most important infrastructure measure of this decade,” despite the fact that Mr. Seehofer wants to wait for a court decision on the question.

Ms. Aigner's offensive is all about testing the water.

The former federal minister of food, agriculture and consumer protection returned to Bavaria at Mr. Seehofer’s request in 2013 to help the CSU garner an absolute majority in state elections. The plan worked and she emerged as economics minister, but that was a long time ago and being grateful is not a political priority.

In fact, she has become something of a thorn in Mr. Seehofer's side.

As part of Germany's transition to renewable energy, a network of high-voltage power lines are slated to be built in Bavaria to distribute power from the plentiful renewable sources up north.

I first listen, then form an opinion. Ilse Aigner, Deputy prime minister of Bavaria

After his people complained, Mr. Seehofer blocked the power grid expansion passed by the federal government. But Ms. Aigner favored the development, and after her own citizen’s meeting, endorsed construction of a single high-voltage power line.

“I first listen, then form an opinion,” she said.

Team not testosterone is her motto, but Mr. Seehofer pulled her back into line. Since then, their relationship is considered “frosty.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Söder, a long-time state minister, has been busy distancing himself from Ms. Aigner, despite her constant attacks on him. Much like the fable of the tortoise and the hare, Mr. Söder had already begun his race for the top job when Ms Aigner arrived back in Bavaria in 2013. He reaped the harvest in the state elections and is now seen as a worthy successor.

To bolster his bid, he has just recruited a high-profile press chief in Michael Backhaus, the former deputy editor of Germany's Bild am Sonntag tabloid newspaper. Mr. Backhaus's duties will be “to plan beyond the here and now.” That clearly suggests the elections for the CSU leadership and prime minister role in 2017.

Until then, Mr. Söder is in a dog fight, despite all the advantages he enjoys. He sufers from being a native of Franconia, which was not histroically part of Bavaria. “If Söder were an Upper Bavarian, it would be a done deal,” a high-ranking CSU politician said.


Quelle: dpa
Markus Söder is not thought of as a true Bavarian.
(Source: dpa)


The cautious Ms. Aigner still has a very strong hand to play. She hopes to score points with the digitization of Bavaria. Last week, she was in the town of Amberg with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, where Joe Kaeser, boss of the engineering giant Siemens, guided them through a tour of a model automated plant.

Later in March, Ms. Aigner will present to the cabinet her concept for the “Zentrum Digitalisierung,” a network for research and companies, followed in May by the digitization summit.

Ms. Aigner also wants to lure start-up companies to Munich, Bavaria's capital. She is setting up a founders’ platform online and is expanding the existing founders’ center, and is also hoping to attract 3,500 founders to a festival tent at the Oktoberfest.

Whether her strategy succeeds will become clear at the end of June, when Ms. Aigner will most likely be selected as the head of the CSU's Upper Bavarian district. Last time, she received almost 100 percent of the votes.


Daniel Delhaes reports on politics and transport for Handelsblatt. To contact the author: [email protected]