Accepting personal responsibility for electoral losses is an established tradition in parliamentary democracies. By rights, leaders of Bavaria’s Christian Social Union should resign en masse after the drubbing their party took in Sunday’s state elections, shedding 10 percentage points from the previous vote and losing their majority.
Instead, the CSU intends to form a new state government with the same people in charge, although it must now find a coalition partner in the state parliament.
The longtime head of the party, Horst Seehofer, reluctantly conceded that, yes, the CSU may have made a mistake or two in losing more than a million voters. But, he implied, party members should wait a few weeks for the dust to settle before making any hasty decisions about leadership.
We must be doing something right
Mr. Seehofer has been chair of the CSU, the Bavarian wing of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) for the past 10 years. For most of that time, he was also prime minister in the state government, until he joined Ms. Merkel’s new cabinet in March as interior minister.
His successor as head of the Bavarian state government, Markus Söder, was officially the face of the campaign, but he is not planning to give up anything, either. He intends to remain minister president and bring another party into his cabinet.
In that, he is only following the example of Ms. Merkel, who also took no responsibility for the conservatives’ poor showing in the national elections last year. The CDU/CSU bloc got more votes than any other party but lost more than 8 percentage points from the previous election in 2013. Nonetheless, Ms. Merkel formed a new government, though it took her six painful months to do so.
Hope against hope
Mr. Seehofer professes that he is open to any decision by the party regarding his political future. He emphasized that he was not making any announcement in saying he was open-minded. The party will hold a meeting in late November or early December to assess what needs to be done, and Mr. Seehofer admits he “has great hope in his heart.”
Many of the party’s lawmakers supported his position, saying it made no sense to go into a finger-pointing frenzy while the important work of government awaits them. Others, however, want a full-fledged party convention to vote in new leadership.
However, just as Ms. Merkel has realized her political support is waning, there was a reason for party leaders to take responsibility for voters’ rejection. Mr. Seehofer patently has no future in politics and has missed his chance for a dignified exit.
Daniel Delhaes covers politics for Handelsblatt. Darrell Delamaide adapted this story into English for Handelsblatt Global. To contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org.