Is Bavaria’s leader on course to become Germany’s next chancellor?

Bavarian state premier Markus Söder established himself as a leader in the coronavirus crisis in Germany. Now a new poll places him as top choice to take over as chancellor after Angela Merkel.

Is Bavaria's leader on course to become Germany's next chancellor?
Bavarian state premier Markus Söder and Chancellor Angela Merkel in December 2019. Photo: DPA

With Chancellor Merkel getting ready to step down next year, politicians – and voters – are thinking about who can fill those big boots.

And one name keeps cropping up: Markus Söder. Yes, the Bavarian state premier has impressed the nation with his quick action and crisis management in getting Covid-19 under control in the southern state hit hardest in the pandemic.

Many see the 53-year-old from Nuremberg as a strong contender to replace Merkel as conservative chancellor.

However, Söder, 53, who is head of the Christian Social Union, (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of the Christian Democrats (CDU), has been coy about the prospect of throwing his hat in the ring.

Yet a new poll shows that 64 percent of people, and 78 percent of CDU/CSU supporters, believe Söder has what it takes to be chancellor.

Meanwhile, 27 percent think that Söder is not suited for the job. Among the supporters of the CDU/CSU, 17 percent share this opinion.

The ZDF “Politbarometer” shows that Söder's popularity has soared in recent months. In March only 30 percent of respondents thought he was suitable to be chancellor.

HIs leadership, which included introducing strict measures in Bavaria, expanding the testing capacity, and urging for a cautious loosening of coronavirus restrictions, seems to have paid off.

READ ALSO: Race to succeed Merkel continues in the shadows of coronavirus

Why does Germany need a new Chancellor?

Right now it doesn't. The position is, of course, taken up by much-loved Merkel. But she announced her intention to stand down from politics when her current legislative term ends in autumn 2021 (unless of course the coalition breaks before then, triggering a new election and she'd have to stand down earlier).

Meanwhile, Merkel gave up her post as leader of the CDU in late 2018, passing on the baton to her ally Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

But Kramp-Karrenbauer announced she was to step down from the position following a rocky road at the top, and would not seek to be the party's candidate for chancellor in next year's general elections.

Her successor – and possible future chancellor – was originally supposed to be chosen at a party congress in spring, but the process was delayed indefinitely due to the pandemic.

Now the race is picking up again for the Christian Democrats to find a worthy successor which could pull the party together and go on to become eventual leader of the country.

The CDU/CSU have been riding high in opinion polls recently, probably due to Merkel's handling of the coronavirus crisis. The party increased in popularity among voters to 40 percent, according to a recent survey – the highest amount in almost three years.

The interesting thing about Söder is that he is in the Bavarian CSU so would not enter the race to become leader of the CDU – but could potentially become chancellor if the party leadership was separate from the chancellery, and if he convinced both parties that he could represent the CDU/CDU alliance.

So far though, Söder insists he's content being leader of Bavaria. However, both voters and the media seem to be singing his praises.

Spiegel magazine even put him on the front cover of their latest issue.

A recent poll by public broadcaster BR put his approval rating at 94 percent, earning him the nickname “Corona Kaiser”.

Could Söder, who took over as Bavarian state premier in 2018, have a change of heart? We'll have to wait and see.

The CSU leader Markus Söder at an event in Munich in April. Photo: DPA

What do the polls say about other politicians?

The battle in the CDU camp – between veteran party heavyweights Armin Laschet, leader of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), businessman Friedrich Merz, and Norbert Röttgen – has been quiet in recent months, but the race is picking up again.

Here's what respondents to the ZDF poll had to say about these choices, and other possible future candidates in Germany:

Merz achieved 31 percent support in the poll, while 55 percent consider him an unsuitable choice to run the country.

Nearly 30 percent are in favour of Green Party leader Robert Habeck as chancellor.

North Rhine-Westphalia's state premier Laschet comes in at 19 percent, while a huge 65 percent think he is unsuitable.The huge coronavirus outbreak at Tönnies meat plant in the state of NRW won't have helped matters for Laschet.

Habeck's colleague in the Green Party leadership, Annalena Baerbock, follows with 17 percent and 65 percent against.

CDU politician Röttgen is in last place in the survey: 14 percent think he is suitable for the chancellorship, while 59 percent disagree.

Nearly 90 percent in favour of compulsory masks

Meanwhile, the pandemic is still at the forefront for voters in Germany, the poll shows.

For 64 percent of respondents to the ZDF poll, coronavirus is currently the most important political problem in Germany. In second place by a wide margin is the economic situation in the country (17 percent).

READ ALSO: How face masks have helped slow down the spread of coronavirus in Germany

A total of 40 percent believe their health is currently endangered by the coronavirus, while 60 percent do not see any danger.

In the survey there is also a clear majority in favour of compulsory masks: 87 percent of all respondents – including majorities in all party supporters – believe it is right that compulsory masks should continue to apply when shopping. Only twelve percent disagree.

It came after there were calls to help the retail trade by getting rid of mandatory masks in Germany in shops.

READ ALSO: Why a row has broken out in Germany over face masks

In general, 73 percent believe that the mouth and nose covering helps “a lot or very much” to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Member comments

  1. Please not Laschet – his (mis)handling of everything to do with the Corona outbreak shows his inability to run a Country

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IN PICTURES: Germany hosts G7 summit with Bavarian twist

G7 leaders are meeting in Bavaria to discuss important issues including Russia's war on Ukraine and the food crisis. The event is known for producing memorable pictures. Here's a look at the best images and tweets so far.

IN PICTURES: Germany hosts G7 summit with Bavarian twist

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The Group of Seven wealthy nations is holding their annual summit in the stunning surroundings of the Bavarian Alps. 

The world leaders are engaged in talks at the Schloss Elmau with a focus on Russia’s war on Ukraine, climate change, energy, the global food crisis and rising inflation. 

The G7 gatherings are known known for producing some memorable photos and amusing moments, and this year is no exception. Here’s a look at the best so far. 

When the G7 summit started on Sunday, the southern state of Bavaria became the standout attraction. 

Leaders of the nations involved – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the USA – were given traditional Bavarian welcomes. 

Spearheaded by Bavarian premier Markus Söder, the leaders were greeted by people clad in Bavarian costumes, such as the dirndl. 

It sparked heated debates on how Germany is portrayed to the rest of the world.  

READ ALSO: Can Scholz create a Merkel-like buzz at the G7 in Bavaria?

Journalist Mathieu von Rohr said on Twitter: “It’s hard to imagine what Söder would have done to Germany’s image in the world as chancellor.”

Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, walks past people wearing traditional Bavarian costumes after his arrival at Munich airport on June 26th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Karmann

Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, walks past people wearing traditional Bavarian costume after his arrival at Munich airport on June 26th.

The left wing newspaper Taz on Monday led with a front page that included this headline: “Finally, indigenous peoples at the G7 summit”.

READ ALSO: Why Bavaria does politics differently to the rest of Germany

The photo of US President Joe Biden signing his name in the Bavarian guest book to Germany produced lots of good captions. 

Nathan Ma poked fun at Germany’s infamous overly complicated contracts that are hard to get out of.

Commentators in Germany have also been making their views known about the events at the summit. 

German broadcaster BR said in an opinion article that the opening G7 event was “like a Monty Python sketch”.

Writer Max Büch said: “Yes, it’s embarrassing that Joe Biden is being coerced by Markus Söder to sign the guestbook at the airport.”

He added: “But people in traditional costume are not embarrassing per se. Even if taz’s ‘indigenous peoples at the G7 summit’ is meant satirically, the title hits a very true core of the image that the rest of Germany still has of Bavaria.”

The southern German traditions continued with Schuhplattler, a traditional style of folk dance popular in the regions of Bavaria and Tyrol. 

“Bavaria makes up perhaps 10 percent of Germany,” one journalist said in another tweet on the Schuhplattler video. “But 90 percent of people abroad think this is all of us.

Bavarian premier Markus Söder defended the opening ceremony. 

He said on Twitter: “Bavaria is the land of homeland and custom: many thanks to our traditional costume associations, musicians and mountain riflemen for their support in welcoming the G7 heads of state. They present the Free State and our traditions with great pride. It was a great backdrop.”

Like every year, the pictures of G7 leaders joking around and getting up, close and personal have also been commented on.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz signals to the other G7 leaders during a photo shoot at Elmau. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz signals to the other G7 leaders during a photo shoot at Elmau.
We’d love to be a fly on the wall for the private conversations being held between the leaders. Here German Chancellor Olaf Scholz looks on in amusement at British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Elmau on June 26th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Elmau on June 26th.

The lack of women G7 leaders was also commented on.