“As If He Had Already Won”
Sharp. Genuine. Successful. These words are used on the Christian Democratic Union (cdu) website to describe Edmund Stoiber. Besides his own political party, many voters are beginning to view Stoiber the same optimistic way—as the next chancellor of Germany.
“Germany’s opposition conservative Christian Democrats … are riding high in the opinion polls” (The Independent, July 19). July polls showed Stoiber ahead of the Social Democrat’s Gerhard Schröder by 6 percentage points, with the gap widening.
What is the explanation for Mr. Stoiber’s mass appeal?
A Confident Stoiber
Stoiber hasn’t always been the most likeable politician. Last year, nobody dreamed he had a chance to win a national election. Yet Stoiber has gained the needed support because he has changed his tactics.
In June, at the Christian Democrats’ last party convention before Germany’s national elections slated for September 22, a thousand euphoric Christian Democrats listened to Stoiber’s speech. “Germany can’t afford to give Mr Schröder a second chance. I’ve been a better state premier than he was, and I’ll be a better chancellor. In 96 days’ time, Germany will be back on its way up!” he declared to a thunderous standing ovation.
The Economist described Stoiber’s newfound capacity to deliver an address on an impassioned scale: “Here was a man of passion and wit, with the scent of victory in his nostrils, who finally seemed to have acquired a capacity for the speech-maker’s knockout blow” (June 22).
Confidence is certainly not lacking in Edmund Stoiber’s personality. At the party convention, “He shook hands with state premiers from the Christian Democratic Union … as if congratulating them. He turned to the party managers, again pressing the flesh—it was as if he had already won the election” (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, June 18).
Stoiber publicly counts the days until he expects to replace Schröder as chancellor, confidently declaring, “The game is over” (cnn, June 30).
“Take Berlin by Storm”
A firm believer in law and order, Mr. Stoiber sees himself as the voice for millions of ordinary patriotic Germans. As if he was quoting Frederick the Great, he explained his reason for seeking Germany’s highest office: “I want to serve my fatherland” (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Feb. 13). Stoiber believes his brilliant mind can lift Germany from its recently poor economic performance under the leadership of Gerhard Schröder to being a nation of greater influence and power.
At the June cdu party convention, Stoiber “made his objectives and his view of his own destiny clearer than ever,” according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (June 18). “Mr. Stoiber shunned tactical restraint. Caught up by his own exuberance, he praised his own superiority and promised to use his ‘intelligence, vigor and compassion’” (emphasis mine throughout).
From the beginning of Mr. Stoiber’s political run for the office of chancellor, his zeal to win was evident: “[H]is desire to effect change, his sense of duty to his peers and his ambition—would not permit him to pass up the biggest chance of his political life” (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Jan. 11).
It was on January 16, 1999, at an extraordinary party convention in Munich, that Mr. Stoiber became chairman of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party of the cdu. After winning the vote at the party convention, Stoiber incited both the csu and cdu “to take Berlin by storm” (The Week in Germany, Jan. 22, 1999).
Germany for Germans
Immigration is one of Edmund Stoiber’s central campaign issues. He insists that immigrants must adopt German cultural ways, abandoning the culture of the former homeland. Stoiber made his view clear, saying, “A nation cannot grow if it has to make itself understood through interpreters” (Associated Press, June 26).
Germany’s population is close to 83 million, 7.3 million of whom are foreigners. “It is not right to encourage immigration when we have 4 million unemployed,” said Stoiber (bbc, June 17). “Germany needs to limit and control immigration,” he said (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, June 18). He intends to pass a strict immigration law that would put a ceiling on the number of foreigners moving to Germany every year.
Broken promises from Gerhard Schröder concerning unemployment have given Stoiber much fodder in his election campaign. Schröder’s political party has trailed in polls as Germany’s economy languishes and unemployment remains persistently high.
A growing number of Germans believe Stoiber when he says it is his goal to win the war on unemployment and to reform government. Unemployment in the German state of Bavaria, where Stoiber has served as prime minister since 1993, is about half the national average. Bavaria is Germany’s most successful and prosperous state, and reports show that it offers the best education. Stoiber is running on his record of success, promising to bring the same success to the entire nation.
One Man’s Impact
Franz Josef Strauss always insisted on a stronger Europe, and he wanted to be the man who directed those changes. He, however, was never able to attain Germany’s top political office.
Edmund Stoiber understands perfectly the vision and determination required to lead in Europe, having served as Strauss’s personal assistant. Will Stoiber fulfill his mentor’s dream of leading a powerful Europe by way of the office of German chancellor? If so, the future impact of such an election victory may not soon be forgotten.
For further insight on what a Stoiber victory will mean for Germany—and the world—refer to the article by Editor in Chief Gerald Flurry, “Why You Should Watch Edmund Stoiber,” in the May issue of this magazine.