A Cabinet shake-up, including the removal of five ministers, has jolted Bavaria under its new premier, Markus Söder. His predecessor, Horst Seehofer, is interior minister in Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition.
Söder on Wednesday sought to rejuvenate his conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) in Germany's southern state by naming a cabinet that he described as "younger and more female." The move came six months ahead of Bavaria's next regional election on October 14.
In the September 2017 federal election, the CSU slumped 10.5 percentage points to 38.8 percent as voters defied the party's decades-long claim to majority rule over the state, with some defecting to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).
Reacting to the cabinet shake-up, Bavaria's opposition Social Democrat (SPD) chief Natascha Kohnen said the CSU had exhausted the moment for pronouncements.
"The new state government must now deliver," she said, adding: "We'll challenge them with our concepts — as we head into election campaigning."
Söder succeeds Seehofer as premier
The 51-year-old Söder, previously Bavaria's finance minister, was elected on Friday to premier following months of internal sparring with Seehofer, 68, who stood down as premier but retained his post as CSU party chairman.
In Wednesday's shake-up, Söder's finance post went to his previous ministry deputy, Albert Füracker. The CSU's Oberpfalz communal branch, which Füracker heads, pinned the CSU's slump in the September election on a defiant Seehofer.
As Bavaria's finance minister, Füracker will be responsible for the state's majority holding in Munich's international airport — Germany's second largest aviation hub.
Culture minister Spaenle bitter
The five departing cabinet members included Environment Minister Ulrike Scharf, Minister for Europe Beate Merk, Agriculture Minister Helmut Brunner, Social Welfare Minister Emilia Müller and Ludwig Spaenle, whose ministry spanned culture and education.
The 56-year-old Spaenle, who had previously supported Söder in his tussle with Seehofer, remarked bitterly to reporters on Wednesday: "I wish the new premier all the best and [some] real friends."
Among the names replacing the five ousted ministers was Munich gynecology professor Marion Kiechle as Bavaria's science minister and Florian Herrmann as chief of the Bavarian government chancellery.
Rival Aigner remains in cabinet
Another Söder rival and potential successor, Ilse Aigner — a former German agriculture minister and, until Wednesday, Bavaria's economy minister — was handed the new regional ministry for housing, construction and transport.
Her economy post went to her previous ministry deputy, Franz Josef Pschierer from Mindelheim, south of Augsburg in Bavaria's Swabia region.
Aigner will also share her existing post as Bavaria's deputy premier with Joachim Herrmann, who, like Söder and Seehofer, has been a frequent critic of Merkel's liberal refugee policy.
A two-party pact renewed regularly since 1949 stipulates that the CSU seeks votes only in Bavaria while its sister party —Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) — contest federal elections elsewhere, in Germany's 15 other regional states or Länder.
Herrmann retained his post as Bavarian interior minister and was also handed responsibility for migrant integration.
Also remaining in their ministerial posts were Health Minister Melanie Huml and Justice Minister Winfried Bausback.
ipj/amp (dpa, Reuters, AFP)