German election 2021: Who is Christian Social Union leader Markus Söder?

Markus Söder is Bavaria’s state premier and head of the Christian Social Union (CSU). He has been a prominent figure in Germany”s response to the pandemic, as chair to the council of state premiers. He met regularly with Angela Merkel and led the way on restrictions and rules.

Bavaria, Söder’s homeland, is where the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was detected in Germany. It’s another reason why his leadership with pandemic protocols was so important.

Söder was a strong contender to replace Merkel to become the conservative CDU/CSU bloc’s candidate, but he eventually bowed out to Armin Laschet, now the leader of the Christian Democratic Union. However, Söder remains covertly critical of his adversary.

Public jibes

Söder, in a public address after his defeat to Laschet, said: “There is no need to whine, now is the time to really fight. I have no desire, no desire for opposition.”

It was a speech with a hidden jibe. He was telling Laschet to step up and start the fight whilst announcing his resignation of the results.

Differences among coalition partners

Söder has also experienced recent political turmoil with his coalition partner in Munich, Hubert Aiwanger. Aiwanger is the leader of the Free Voters party and Deputy Minister-President of Bavaria. Aiwanger does not want to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and it has caused tensions.

At 1m 94cm, Söder towers over many and he knows how to put himself in the spotlight. He does so more often than Armin Laschet and Olaf Scholz, the vice-chancellor of Germany and another chancellor candidate.

Love for his homeland

In a recent interview, he described Bavaria and Berlin as “a bit like New York and California. Berlin is more like New York, a bit hectic, a bit noisy and interesting, but somehow very dense”. He described staying in Berlin for too long as rather exhausting. According to him, Bavaria is like California: “Better weather, high technology and a different work-life balance”.

Despite this peaceful picture that Söder paints of Bavaria, the tranquillity of where he lives has not taken away his fighting spirit.

Söder hasn’t hesitated to point out, during the election campaign, that he would have done better than the CDU-CSU candidate who defeated him.

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