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Horst Seehofer to step down as CSU chief

November 12, 2018

After Angela Merkel pledged to retire as the head of her CDU party, Horst Seehofer has confirmed he will also step down as leader of Bavaria's CSU. However, he intends to remain Germany's interior minister for now.

Deutschland München | Horst Seehofer, Innenminister CSU
Image: Imago/A. Pohl

Germany's Interior Minister Horst Seehofer confirmed he will quit as the head of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to Angela Merkel's CDU.

Seehofer confirmed this on Monday, during a visit to a police office in the hilltop town of Bautzen in eastern Saxony.

Party officials had been told of his intentions over the weekend and there were rumors Seehofer might also resign from his role as interior minister. But speaking to reporters on Monday he denied these reports.

"I am the federal interior minister and will continue to serve in that role," he said.

Seehofer said he was stepping down to make way for a renewal within the CSU. He also said that the party's poor performance in last month's state elections in Bavaria was not "the main reason" for his resignation.

The 69-year-old said the exact timing of his resignation was still not certain and that he would announce more details later this week.

Merkel and Seehofer in March 2018
Merkel and Seehofer in March 2018Image: picture-alliance/dpa/W. Kumm

Read more: CSU leader Horst Seehofer: The man who could have brought down Angela Merkel

A new party leader is due to be elected at a conference early next year.

Seehofer has led the CSU for a decade, and only recently stepped aside as the top politician at state level in Bavaria, making room for Markus Söder. Söder is considered the front-runner to succeed Seehofer, despite the pair's uneasy relationship.

A leader under pressure

The poor performance of the CSU in Bavaria brought immense pressure on the party leadership. The party stayed on top of the polls with 37.2 percent of the vote but lost its absolute majority in the state assembly. Its share of the vote dipped 10.5 percent compared with the 2013 election.

Over the last few months, Seehofer's routine clashes with Chancellor Angela Merkel and disputes within the government coalition have also caused tensions with the CDU and the Social Democratic Party (SPD). Two main points of contention: immigration policy and Seehofer's support of disgraced intelligence chief Hans-Georg Maassen.

The political reactions

The SPD's reaction to Seehofer's announcement was not long in coming. The Vice-President of the Bundestag and SPD member Thomas Oppermann told the Rheinische Post post daily newpaper that Seehofer should resign as interior minister.

"Horst Seehofer should now show some attitude and take responsibility for his serious political mistakes," Oppermann said.

Calls for Seehofer's resignation from the ministry also came from outside the government coalition. 

Robert Habeck, head of the opposition Green Party, criticized Seehofer's decision to stay on as interior minister.

He told radio channel Radioeins he considered Seehofer "the wrong person to hold the role of interior minister, and he has proved this sufficiently over the last six months." 

gs, dj/jm (dpa, AFP)

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