Bavarian Governor Edmund Stoiber fought the good fight. But on Thursday, he announced that he was going to step down from the southern German state's leadership when his term expires at the end of September. He also said he would relinquish his hold on the leadership of his party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) -- the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union. With the country bracing for gale force winds from the North Sea storm "Kyrill," many are calling this Germany's second storm.
Stoiber's announcement comes just one day after press reports indicated that he had come to an agreement with CSU leadership postponing any decision on his continued control of the party until the autumn. But on Thursday, Stoiber -- who has been Bavaria's governor for almost 14 years and who barely missed out on becoming chancellor in the 2002 elections, which he lost to Gerhard Schröder -- decided he could no longer withstand increasing calls for him to go from the party's grassroots.
"My primary political aims have always been the success and unity of the CSU, and the well-being and future of Bavaria," Stoiber said. "Commensurate with this goal, I have decided not to run in the state elections in 2008. I will vacate my position as governor of Bavaria on Sept. 30, 2007. I will also not run for CSU party leadership at the party convention in September."
The party leadership has scheduled a meeting for Monday to decide who will be chosen to take over Stoiber's two positions. The party indicated on Thursday morning that Bavarian Interior Minister Günther Beckstein had been pegged to take over as Bavarian Governor until next year's election and Bavarian Economics Minister Erwin Huber would become party boss. But on Thursday afternoon, Horst Seehofer, German Agriculture Minister, said he was throwing his name into the ring for party leadership as well.
For weeks, Bavaria has been gripped by growing questions about Stoiber's leadership, with increasing numbers of CSU members calling for him to step down. In late autumn, CSU party functionary Gabriele Pauli began publicly questioning whether Stoiber should continue at the head of the party. Stoiber's chief of staff then began making inquiries into Pauli's personal life, apparently looking for a scandal which could be used to silence her. Pauli caught wind of the "spying" and it exploded into a full-fledged affair soon after she went public. Stoiber's poll ratings began dropping soon thereafter -- so low in fact that had a vote been held last Sunday, the Social Democrats (SPD) might even have won in the state. The CSU has governed Bavaria virtually unchallenged since 1946.
The beginning of the end for Stoiber, though, was his decision not to take a position in Merkel's cabinet after she became chancellor in autumn of 2005. He leveraged his power to force the creation of a "super ministry" which would have combined the two ministries of economics and technology. But after forcing Merkel to accept his demands as part of the coalition agreement, he then elected not to take the position. Not only did his decision to remain in Munich make it look as though he were unwilling to work with fellow-conservative Merkel, but members of the CSU leadership had already begun jockeying for position to replace Stoiber as Bavaria's governor.
During Stoiber's 14 years leading Bavaria, the southern German state solidified its position as one of Germany's richest. Unemployment in Bavaria continues to be among the lowest in the country and many of Germany's leading companies, including Allianz, Siemens and BMW have their headquarters there.