Bavarian State Premier Edmund Stoiber handed Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s ruling Social Democrat Party (spd) its greatest election defeat since World War ii in September’s state elections. In a drubbing that stymied the spd and caused general elation in Christian Social Union (csu) ranks, Stoiber gained 61 percent of the total vote compared to the Social Democrat’s 19 percent. This was a full 10 points up on his showing in the previous state election held in 1998.
In a statement that may yet prove prophetic, Stoiber declared that his win was “a sensational and epoch-making event.” He maintained that the result would have “consequences far beyond the next days, weeks, months and maybe even years” (Deutsche Welle, Sept. 21).
Edmund Stoiber is favored by a state economy that reflects one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. With Chancellor Schröder having barely scraped back into office with the slimmest of margins during the last federal elections, the German electorate is loudly calling on him to deliver on his promise to deal with Germany’s deeply entrenched unemployment rate. So far there are no clear signs of the chancellor dealing decisively and effectively with this challenge. This is the clear ace that Stoiber holds.
Stoiber claims that Bavaria is the only state presently subscribing to the EU’s 3 percent ceiling prescribed by the eurozone’s stability pact. Reflecting on Bavaria’s economic success, Stoiber mused that “Bavaria should be a blueprint for all Germany.”
The landslide victory for the csu is a particularly bitter pill for the spd to swallow, especially coming on the heels of other significant electoral defeats in Hesse and Lower Saxony.
Germany is in economic crisis. The risk is that this will develop into a winter of discontent that will spill over into national social disruption. Stoiber could well be the man to lead the Fatherland out of this state of crisis.
For the past seven years, this magazine has pointed to Edmund Stoiber as a prospect for future leadership in Germany, perhaps even in a federal Europe! As our editor in chief wrote in our May 2002 edition, “This crisis is apt to get worse before it gets better. If it does, Mr. Stoiber will be much more attractive to voters. He is a man we all should watch.”