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The CSU – relieved of a great burden

Markus Söder restlessly drums his fingers on the table and waves his hand over the folder that contains his speech manuscript.

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The CSU – relieved of a great burden

Markus Söder restlessly drums his fingers on the table and waves his hand over the folder that contains his speech manuscript. The key words of his almost two-hour speech, which he is about to give on the Political Ash Wednesday, are framed in it.

Söder speaks to around 4,000 party supporters in the well-filled Dreiländerhalle in Passau. It is the "Political High Mass of the CSU"; the first again in a hall with beer, pretzels, a lot of kisses and even more people in costume since the outbreak of the corona pandemic - and since the lost federal election in 2021. Since the loss of power in Berlin, "traffic light country" like Söder teases.

The heavy defeat is still driving the Christian Socialists, like so many in the sister party CDU. The CSU "was who", says one of the officials, in Munich, in Berlin, also in Brussels. Now the traffic light rules in Berlin, the Union as opposition is clearly led by CDU leader Friedrich Merz.

The CSU is mostly trimmed to Bavaria. "We are now looking more at Munich than we used to, there is now the decisive and only center of the party," says one from the CSU state group in the Bundestag. And Söder, the man who saw himself on the way to the chancellor's office, now only wants one thing by his own admission: to remain the first man in Bavaria. Merz's close confidants "don't believe a word" in this regard, as they say.

And yet the mood of the Christsozialen is better than seldom in Passau, the self-confidence is so great that Söder warns from the stage "not to get cocky". And otherwise no trace of defensiveness or even humility. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD): "Promises a turning point and delivers slow motion," scoffs Söder. Ex-Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD)? "You don't have to remember the name." FDP leader and Finance Minister Christian Lindner: someone who secretly increases taxes via the property tax reassessment. The federal government? "The worst Germany has ever had."

The climate stickers? “Should get stuck in Beijing.” And Söder says about the Greens and their nutritional tips: “We don’t eat maggots, we eat roast pork. And if you want insects, dear Greens, then you can eat them yourself.” Bavaria’s Prime Minister has announced rhetorically hearty home cooking – and delivers exactly that.

The party chairman, his cabinet, the CSU grandees and the audience seem to be so strong they can hardly walk. Despite the loss of power in Berlin. Or better: exactly because of that.

Without government responsibility in the federal government, the Christian Socials in Bavaria appear to have been relieved of a burden. They no longer have to justify the compromises made by past federal governments. For the asylum policy of the then Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU), the nuclear phase-out, the coal phase-out. For new burdens, more bureaucracy. All Berlin, all Brussels.

"It is painful that we are sitting on the opposition bench in the federal government," says CSU General Secretary Martin Huber. “But a coalition with the SPD also meant having to make compromises. And that wasn't always easy to convey to your own people."

There is an "opposition bonus," says former party leader and state minister Erwin Huber; The CSU in Bavaria is now using this bonus. You pull together. “We are now in a phase in which we can do pure CSU again. And we can show a clear profile again in Berlin," says Science Minister Markus Blume.

"People notice that we are clearly concentrating on Bavaria again," explains Ilse Aigner, who is the chairwoman of the CSU district association for Upper Bavaria. "Now we can speak plain language again," summarizes Secretary General Huber. When he made the hall hot like boxing, he passed it on to Söder.

"Trendy and traditional" is Bavaria, Söder told the Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson a few days ago - that is the new motto of the Bavarian Prime Minister. And that with the beer in the mug in front of him is the traditional part.

The plate in front of Söder consists only of cheese appetizers, no sausage, no bacon, no meat. And that in Bavaria. This is the "trendy" category. And the fact that Söder hardly listens to the previous speakers, prefers to take boomer selfies with Aigner, which he sends immediately, and otherwise constantly types on his cell phone, probably also belongs to his "trendy" category.

In Bavaria, the CSU is undoubtedly trendy at the moment, to stay in the picture here. In surveys, the Christsozialen are continuously increasing. Almost eight months before the Bavarian state elections, the CSU came to 42 percent in the Forsa Institute survey. The last time the surveys were better was two years ago. The absolute majority is therefore within sight, because the other parties that, according to the survey, would move into the state parliament would have a total of 45 percent, i.e. only three points more than the Christian Socialists.

So Söder is apparently right with his "Bayern first" when he swears, as in Passau, that "the sky over Bavaria will not turn green, but will remain white and blue". When he says that the Free State is "the only car country" in Germany. "That we will never form a black-green coalition in Munich." That the traffic light coalition "reshapes the country, the Greens want to re-educate people" and that the CSU is the bulwark against it.

Söder plays the “free south” card against “traffic light north” – and that goes down well in Bavaria. The applause at the end of the speech is overwhelming. Only the last Bayern anthem is even louder.

"Kick-off Politics" is WELT's daily news podcast. The most important topic, analyzed by WELT editors, and the dates of the day. Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, among others, or directly via RSS feed.

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