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Over and done with

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Jens Thurau
November 12, 2018

Horst Seehofer plans to step down as head of the Christian Social Union. His days as Interior Minister appear numbered too, but not before he tries to take the chancellor down with him, writes DW's Jens Thurau.

Horst Seehofer leaves the podium
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/S. Hoppe

These past months with Horst Seehofer in Berlin were quite something! It's evident just how much of a stir the head of the Christian Social Union (CSU) and federal interior minister caused among friend and foe, experts and journalists when you remember that he only took office a few months ago. It feels like it has been ages.

In mid-March, Seehofer was still state premier of Bavaria. Then he moved to Berlin and the madness began: Endless debates about refugee policies, ultimatums issued against the chancellor, same-day resignation threats and retraction.

And finally, the absurd rift over the head of Germany's domestic intelligence agency, Hans-Georg Maassen. The spy chief was first promoted, then transferred and then, in the end, fired.

The coalition government was on the brink of collapse because of an administrator! And Horst Seehofer was at the center of it all. Each and every appearance was strange, full of bizarre yet subtle accusations against the people who allegedly no longer understood him. That is, against everybody.

Horst Seehofer
Horst Seehofer has led the CSU - the Bavarian sister party of Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats - since 2008Image: Getty Images/S. Gallup

Seehofer wanted to be right

Basically, for him it was always about being right. In 2015, he harshly criticized the chancellor's comparably liberal refugee policies — to no avail. But he continued to taunt and plot wherever he could, offering up an embarrassing performance when he reprimanded the chancellor like a school girl at a CSU party convention.

Back home in Bavaria, the CSU followed his riotous course until the party recognized during the state election campaign that it was driving away its own voters. The CSU had a narrow escape, and can continue to rule in Bavaria. But it has lost its absolute majority and must enter a coalition with the Free Voters party.

It was a bitter defeat for state premier Markus Söder, but it was also an opportunity to replace Seehofer as CSU leader. And to lay the blame for the disastrous showing on him. At least that part is finally over and done with.

Final goal: Take Merkel down with him

Seehofer, however, would like to remain interior minister for an interim phase. It is obvious why he wants to stay on the Berlin scene he so despises: He still wants to be right where Merkel is concerned.

He is so embittered that if possible, he won't take his hat until she does, too. The chances aren't that bad, either. Merkel lacks the strength to dismiss Seehofer. Her government, already failing, would stumble into the next crisis.

Many years ago, Horst Seehofer was a committed politician, an expert on social and health policies and a staunch conservative anchored firmly in Bavaria and the CSU. That was a long time ago. He has since done harm to one and all: His party, the state, the political culture, even himself. It's a major tragedy — a personal one, too.

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Jens Thurau Jens Thurau is a senior political correspondent covering Germany's environment and climate policies.@JensThurau
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