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Monday, 17 June, 2002, 14:08 GMT 15:08 UK
Edmund Stoiber: Bringing Bavaria to Berlin
Edmund Stoiber
Mr Stoiber became the conservatives' candidate in January
After kicking off the current election campaign with a number of gaffes, German conservative leader Edmund Stoiber appears back on track.


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

He may have called a chat show host by the name of a former rival and forgotten the name of Deutsche Telekom - Europe's largest telecommunications company - but his alliance of Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) has consistently led the ruling Social Democratic Party (SPD) in the opinion polls.

Mr Stoiber is hoping that the economic successes of bucolic Bavaria - where he is prime minister - will make a big impression on German voters.

He can boast of Bavaria's Laptops and Lederhosen: the combination of a booming high-tech industry, the lowest unemployment rate in the country, and a love of the province's conservative tradition.

By contrast, the ruling SPD has been plagued by an unemployment figure which doggedly hovers around the four million mark despite promises by Gerhard Schroeder to reduce the figure when elected chancellor in 1998.

But it remains to be seen whether Mr Stoiber can transform Germans into Bavarians, and bring Munich's magic to the corridors of Berlin.

Deportations

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.

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 big and boisterous, Mr Stoiber a reserved, bespectacled man with a penchant for three-piece suits.

Politically, both are staunch conservatives. But Mr Stoiber has learnt from the experience of his former master, whose brand of Bavarian politics found no favour up north when he himself stood as a candidate for chancellor.

Accordingly, Mr Stoiber has toned down aspects of his politics since beating CDU leader Angela Merkel to run as the conservatives' candidate for chancellor.

He has indicated he would not ban gay marriages - sanctioned by the current government - a policy he vehemently objected to when it was introduced.

But he has retained a hardline stance on the need to curb immigration.

His aim is to appeal to the mainstream voters of Germany, as well as the conservatives of Bavaria - but observers say he runs the risk of alienating his powerbase, while failing to win over the rest of the country.

He must also hope that funding scandals which devastated the CDU under Helmut Kohl do not hit him too.

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

Family values

On a personal level, he remains less popular than Chancellor Schroeder, and 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?"

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The BBC's Steve Rosenberg
"Germany's conservatives are brimming with confidence"
See also:

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