Worried Bavarians may abandon Kohl

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The Independent Online
BAVARIA'S RESTLESS conservatives threatened yesterday to declare UDI from Chancellor Helmut Kohl's ruling Christian Democrats (CDU) should they form a coalition government with the Social Democrats after this month's federal elections.

With less than three weeks to polling day, the latest blast from the south will only add to the general feeling that the government's troops are in disarray. The Christian Social Union (CSU), an independent party in Bavaria that is incorporated into Chancellor Kohl's group in the federal parliament in Bonn, seems to be admitting the possibility of defeat.

Opinion polls persistently show the rival Social Democrats leading the CDU-CSU block by between 3 and 5 percentage points. If the figures stay the same, after 27 September the new Chancellor will be Gerhard Schroder, who may have to form a "grand coalition" with his current adversaries.

The Bavarians would not tolerate that. "It would, of course, mean the end of our relationship if the CDU were they to enter a coalition with the SPD," said Michael Glos, CSU leader, in an interview on German radio.

A split between the CDU and its more right-wing sister party would herald the biggest realignment in German politics since the Second World War. But "everyone knows it is inconceivable", Mr Kohl retorted. "The CDU and CSU have enjoyed a close and proven alliance," the corner-stone of the "stability of our republic".

The Bavarians do not quite see it that way. With elections coming up this Sunday to their regional assembly, they have been trying to put as great a distance between themselves and the Chancellor as possible. The impression emerging from Munich is the Bavarians have given up on Mr Kohl's chances of re-election, and feel his record in government will damage their own prospects at home.

Their prime minister, Edmund Stoiber, is also insulted by the way Mr Kohl is handling his succession, picking his loyal and competent lieutenant, Wolfgang Schauble, to take over the reins in a - distant - future. Mr Stoiber thinks there is a far better candidate: himself.

Mr Stoiber and his colleagues will no doubt strike a friendlier tone with their Bonn allies after Sunday's Bavarian vote, and their expected comfortable victory might even put some wind in Mr Kohl's sails.