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Friday, 11 January, 2002, 21:37 GMT
Stoiber: Bringing Bavaria to Berlin
Edmund Stoiber
Stoiber's government once tried to deport a Turkish family who had lived in Germany for 30 years
Germany's right-wing election challenger, Edmund Stoiber, has scored a huge success in his native Bavaria - and is now attempting to sell himself to the rest of Germany.


The question is - will the Germans feel that a man who wants to put up a crucifix in every government building is the way forward?

Gero Neugebauer
Political analyst
Mr Stoiber is hoping that the economic successes of bucolic Bavaria - where he is governor - will impress German voters sufficiently to elect his right-wing coalition to power on September 22.

Mr Stoiber can boast of the so-called Laptops and Lederhosen of Bavarian culture: the combination of a booming high-tech industry, the lowest unemployment rate in the country, with a love of the province's conservative tradition.

But it remains to be seen whether Mr Stoiber can transform Germans into Bavarians.

Deportations

He started his campaign badly with a number of gaffes - including calling a chat show host by the name of a former rival and forgetting the name of Deutsche Telekom - Europe's largest telecommunications company - but later came back strongly.

Seen by many as a dour bureaucrat, Mr Stoiber's rise through the ranks of the CSU has been characterised by a steely determination.

Married with three children, he was born in 1941 in Oberaudorf near Rosenheim in Bavaria. After studying law in Munich, in 1971 he took a post at the Bavarian State Ministry for Economic Development and the Environment.


It is not right to encourage immigration when we have four million unemployed

Edmund Stoiber
Within one year he was appointed personal advisor to the then Minister of State Franz Josef Strauss, an arch-conservative, who would later become his political mentor.

In 1978 he was called by Mr Strauss to become Secretary of the CSU - a meteoric promotion for a young and relatively low-profile politician.

It is Mr Strauss whom the current Bavarian premier must thank for the province's success.

Mr Strauss was the father of Bavarian economic development, building close ties between industry and education and investing massively in transport and infrastructure.

Physically, the two could not be more different. Mr Strauss was seen as the typical Bavarian - big and boisterous. Mr Stoiber is seen as a reserved policy wonk - a bespectacled man with a penchant for three piece suits.

But at heart, the two men share a staunchly conservative social view. Mr Stoiber is famous for his hardline stance on foreigners, and was one of the few provincial leaders to kick up real opposition to the Government's decision to sanction gay marriage.

Mr Stoiber's Bavarian government once tried to deport a teenage delinquent born in Germany along with his parents, who had lived and worked in the country for more than 30 years, back to Turkey.

But he has learnt something from his former master Strauss, whose brand of Bavarian politics found no favour up north when he himself stood as a candidate for chancellor.

Since seizing the role the chancellor candidacy from Angela Merkel - the CDU leader who might have been the first woman and first politician from the former East Germany to take the reins - Mr Stoiber has toned down his stance.

He has indicated that immigration will not be a central plank of his campaign come the autumn, and has also pledged that should he become chancellor, he would not overturn the government policies he has lambasted.

He is aware that he has to appeal to the mainstream voters of Germany, as well as the conservatives of Bavaria. But observers says he runs the risks of alienating his powerbase, while failing to win the hearts of the country.

Family values

He must also hope that that the kind of funding scandal which devastated the CDU under Helmut Kohl does not hit him too.

He was recently probed on accusations levelled by businessman Karl-Heinz Schreiber, who alleges that, during the 1980s, he donated 2m Deutschmarks (1.02m euros) to the CSU - charges Mr Stoiber firmly denies.

Even if the parliamentary committee believes him, there are no guarantees that he can make his brand of Bavarian politics attractive enough for German voters to oust the SPD in September.

"On a number of policy issues there aren't that many differences between Schroeder and Stoiber," said political analyst Gero Neugebauer. "But if there are feelings of insecurity among Germans come September, whether global or local, this is bound to boost the image of conservative Bavaria, family values, and tradition."

"The question is, will the Germans feel that a man who wants to put up a crucifix in every government building is the way forward?"

See also:

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