The last time Markus Söder can be seen in public is three days before Christmas – during a tour of the Munich vaccination center. Shortly afterwards, he went into quarantine, his State Chancellery Minister Florian Herrmann fell ill with Covid-19. Because a distance was maintained and a room air filter was in use, Söder is not a category 1 contact person, but according to his Corona creed of prudence and caution, he goes into self-quarantine.
Söder followed the start of the vaccination on December 27th from his home office, not without getting involved in a newspaper interview: “… there is simply too little vaccine Picture on sunday.
Söder sparked debate about change of minister
As always, the political year began with the retreat of the CSU regional group in the Upper Bavarian monastery of Seeon, where Söder dominated the headlines with his proposal to reshuffle the cabinet:
“It’s like in football: In the second half you strengthen yourself with new and fresh people. We should therefore rejuvenate and renew the government team by the middle of the year …”
… he says in a newspaper interview. The ball is not just in the field, Söder shot it straight to Berlin.
Meanwhile, around 8,000 kilometers east in Wuhan, China, the first death in connection with the novel corona virus is reported. Only a good two weeks later, Bavaria got the virus – and will have a major impact on politics and the mood.
It sounds like no, but …
Just like the discussion about the Union’s candidate for chancellor: After the election scandal in Thuringia, CDU boss Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer announces her withdrawal. This begins the debate about the CDU chairmanship and the candidacy for chancellor. The name Markus Söder comes up again and again. But he says what he will say many times this year:
“My place is in Bavaria, I’ve always said that, it stays that way.”
A sentence that sounds like no, but doesn’t have to be no. Political scientist Michael Weigl puts it this way: “I don’t think he is aiming for chancellorship. But if the call comes from the CDU, then he would do it.”
First of all, the corona virus dominates the agenda: The number of new infections increases in March and April. Markus Söder orders strict measures – exit restrictions, lockdown. The Bavarian rules are stricter than in many other federal states. At the same time, Söder’s popularity ratings are increasing. In a specially introduced Easter address, Söder remains cautious – despite the falling number of infections: “With our Bavarian route we were able to prevent over 50,000 further infections. Nevertheless, there are many deaths, every one of which is painful.”
Production at the Chiemsee
At the end of April, Bavaria introduced a mask requirement in Saxony and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. In the summer, a touch of normality finally becomes noticeable and the Bavarian Prime Minister is planning an excursion. Together with the Chancellor, Söder and his ministers visit Herrenchiemsee. The Bavarian sky in the most beautiful blue. Söder knows how to produce beautiful pictures. Pictures that have their price: A request from the AfD parliamentary group in the Bavarian state parliament reveals that the visit cost 120,000 euros. The AfD complains of wasted tax money.
Söder had to cancel another visit, which would also have provided special pictures: in mid-August he had to admit that his strategy of testing a lot did not work. Hundreds of corona infected people were not informed of their result. A long-planned trip to the North Sea falls flat. Söder cancels, Söder tweets, announces that he will “check all structures”.
For political scientist Michael Weigl, an exemplary crisis communication that shows: Yes, I take care of you, nothing is more important than you in this moment, yes I have to show drive, have to show determination, I have to show that I am always available – and never think of anything else.
Nevertheless – the resistance to Söder’s tough course is growing, the “lateral thinkers” are also taking to the streets in Bavaria. The Prime Minister wants to crack down on what he calls the “toxic brew” and have the Office for the Protection of the Constitution monitor it.
Opposition criticizes the cabinet of Nikolaus
The opposition in the Bavarian state parliament is also critical of Söder’s policy: For example, he had to put up with the allegation of symbolism by the FDP when he convened a special cabinet on St. Nicholas Day, a Sunday. Just two days later, he and his ministers would have met anyway.
Whether with spontaneously convened meetings and press conferences or with quick, consistent decisions – Markus Söder used the Corona crisis like no other Prime Minister to communicate his actions. It was pure coincidence that he was chairman of the Prime Minister’s Conference and therefore sat next to the Chancellor and announced measures. Before making important decisions, he gave interviews early in the morning, in the morning magazine of ARD and ZDF and elsewhere. That was no coincidence, but an attempt to make the headlines and underpin our own pioneering role.