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Germany

Bavarian Premier Moves to Berlin

Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber, who announced on Monday that he will be Germany's new economy minister, has long eyed a move to Berlin -- even if he failed to win the chancellery himself in 2002.

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Will Stoiber have the success in Berlin he has had in Bavaria?

Three years after his unsuccessful stab at becoming Germany's head of government, snow-haired Stoiber, 64, will move from the provinces to the capital where he will become minister of the economy and technology under a new left-right coalition government headed by Christian Democratic Union (CDU) chief Angela Merkel.

Stoiber has been premier of Bavaria since 1993. Under his leadership, Germany's biggest regional state continued to transform itself from a largely agricultural economy to a

high-tech one that could long boast the fastest growth rate and lowest unemployment of all 16 German states.

However, Stoiber's recipe for success, with a mix of direct-talking social conservatism and modern economics, of the widely touted "laptops and lederhosen" model, is unlikely to fit so comfortably with Germany as a whole.

Not so popular outside Bavaria

Edmund Stoiber mit Fau Karin, Zweidrittel Mehrheit für die CSU nach der Landtagswahl in Bayern mit Thumbnail

Stoiber (with his wife, Karin) in friendly environs during the opening of the Oktoberfest parade in Munich.

The popularity in his home state, where he enjoys support of over 60 percent, is not as strong in other areas of Germany.

In a major gaffe during the election campaign that may well have cost the conservatives valuable votes, he alienated many east Germans by dismissing widespread support for the former communist Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) as a protest movement that selfishly put people's own personal frustrations before the good of Germany as a whole.

Just a month ahead of the Sept. 18 vote, Stoiber railed that he could not accept that eastern Germany had the final say over who should be chancellor.

"Frustrated voters must not to be allowed to determine the fate of Germany," he said, adding that "not everywhere are parts of the population as clever as they are in Bavaria."

Similarly, his strongly Bavarian strain of conservatism -- he publicly says "yes" to crucifixes in the classroom, but "no" to gay marriage -- is unlikely to sit comfortably with the larger German population.

Mixed economic reviews

Finally, his economic reputation in Bavaria is not quite as pristine as his Christian Social Union (CSU) party likes to portray it, with question marks, for example, over the role of the conservative regional government in the fall of the once-sprawling Kirch media empire.

The region's banking giant, Munich-based HypoVereinsbank, has recently fallen prey to takeover by Italian rival UniCredit.

Indeed, his economic policies in Bavaria have smacked strongly of state interventionism rather than true free-market liberalism.

Rapid riser

Edmund Stoiber trinkt Bier

Stoiber drinks from a beerstein featuring a photo of Franz-Josef Strauss

Born at Oberaudorf am Inn in 1941, Stoiber's political rise was rapid. He became a member of the regional parliament in 1974 and quickly came to the attention of then-Bavarian premier Franz-Josef Strauss, who groomed him to become the CSU's general secretary in 1978.

A lawyer by training, Stoiber went on to become Strauss' right-hand man in the Bavarian state chancellery and then regional state interior minister. In 1993, he became regional state premier of Bavaria.

A father of two daughters and a son, and a grandfather of two, Stoiber has been married for 37 years.

His loss to Schröder in the 2002 general election was a crushing blow as he had led the race until the final days before voting.

But since this September's inconclusive election, Stoiber's name has been linked with a number of positions, including interior minister and foreign minister.

At the end of the day, with the economy portfolio, the ardent football fan has been allotted one of the most important jobs in the government, although it falls short of the economy and labor "super ministry" held by his predecessor Wolfgang Clement.

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