Horst Köhler, the presidential candidate fielded by the conservative opposition and liberal Free Democratic Party, remains a controversial choice among Germany's conservatives. On Wednesday, the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of the larger Christian Democrats (CDU), was at pains to assure they would support Köhler's nomination. The move came after mass-selling tabloid
Bild quoted a CSU source as saying Köhler, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, would be punished during presidential elections in May for openly supporting CDU leader Angela Merkel as a chancellor candidate in the 2006 elections. The CSU still hasn't formally decided on fielding Merkel as a successor to Chancellor Schröder amid rumors that CSU head Edmund Stoiber, the former conservative chancellor candidate who lost out to Schröder at the last national polls, was nursing ambitions to run again. On Wednesday former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt weighed in on the controversy surrounding Köhler's nomination for German president, saying Köhler had "more political expertise than the whole German political class put together."