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Germany

Bavaria Set to Seal Landmark Coalition Under New Premier

The conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), which has ruled Bavaria alone for 42 years, is to sign a coalition deal with a liberal pro-business minority and name new CSU chief Horst Seehofer as state premier.

Horst Seehofer waves after being named CSU party chairman on Oct. 25

Seehofer takes the helm as the waters get rough

On Monday, Oct. 27, Seehofer and Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, the head of the Free Democratic Party (FDP) are to ink the historic coalition agreement that ends over four decades of sole conservative rule in Germany's largest state.

The CSU, the sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, lost its absolute majority in state elections four weeks ago, forcing it to seek a governing partner.

The FDP won seats in the Bavarian state assembly in the Sept. 28 poll for the first time in 14 years and is to take over the economy and science ministries. An FDP convention in the city of Ingolstadt approved the arrangement Sunday.

"It's always hard to give something up," said CSU majority leader Georg Schmid, "But that's how it is in a coalition and I think we've reached a good consensus with each other, for example in distributing the ministries."

The two parties plan to partly relax a strict ban on smoking in bars which was blamed by some for the CSU's loss of one third of its traditional support at the state election.

Bavaria names new premier

After the loss in support to just 43 per cent of ballots, the Bavaria-only CSU deposed both its former leader, Erwin Huber, and its state premier, Guenther Beckstein.

Landesbank Bayern LB in Munich

Rescuing Bavaria's state bank will be first on Seehofer's agenda

Seehofer was named CSU chief at a party meeting on Saturday and, on Monday, is to be appointed to the position of state premier. He relinquished his currents posts in Berlin as federal minister of agriculture and minister for consumer affairs.

Despite receiving a 90.3 percent majority in the delegation's vote for chairman on Saturday, Seehofer is not entirely without controversy within his own party. Reports of an extra-marital affair last year damaged his reputation among some of the more conservative party members who see the CSU as a bastion of traditional values.

Hurdles ahead for Seehofer

The CSU has not only lost both broad support from the majority of voters and faith in its leadership, but the state's economic situation is also in grave danger after nine-figure losses at partially state-run Landesbank Bayern LB as a result of the international finance crisis.

"I think the rest of the country looks at Bavaria with a certain Schadenfreude," political scientist Juergen Falter told Deutsche Welle.

In addition to fighting for tax cuts and inheritance tax reform, Seehofer has already promised to make the crisis at the state bank first priority.

The key to Seehofer's success, said Falter, is to secure his position in Bavaria so that he is unchallenged in Berlin.

"He'll raise his voice in national politics," said Falter. "He's good at that; that's his territory. I think he'll definitely perform well at the federal level."

Seehofer said in Monday's Sueddeutsche Zeitung, "My work place will be in Munich, but my combat strength will also stretch to Berlin."

And if he's to secure federal funds for Bavaria's troubled state bank, he'll have to play his cards well in Berlin.

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