Horst Seehofer, a critic of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s liberal asylum policies, said on Monday he would step down as chief of the powerful Bavarian regional sister party to Merkel’s conservatives but remain Germany’s Interior Minister.
“I will give up my office as party chief,” Seehofer told journalists in the eastern German city of Bautzen, confirming media reports published over the weekend.
Seehofer’s announcement follows Merkel’s own declaration that her fourth term as chancellor will be her last, and that she will step down as leader of the Christian Democrats (CDU), the national conservative party that has been in power twice as often as not in the post-war era.
Reuters reports that the CSU has dominated politics in post-war Bavaria, using its solid grip on one of Germany’s largest and richest states to ensure outsized influence in national government whenever the conservatives run the country.
But both the national and regional conservative parties have faced their worst electoral performances in decades over the past two years, as the far right has gained ground by challenging Merkel’s immigration policy.