STRAUSS "GOES FOR BROKE": It's now official. Franz-Josef Strauss will go up against Chancellor Helmut Schmidt in next year's West German General Election, a campaign which London's Daily Telegraph predicts will be a "titanic duel."

The selection of Strauss as their chancellor candidate by the opposition Christian Democratic Union/Christian Socialist Union came after a tense seven-hour long inter-party caucus on Monday July 3. When it was over, the CDU/CSU parliamentary candidates voted 135 to 102 in favor of Herr Strauss over his rival, CDU favorite Ernst Albrecht, the 49-year-old "boy wonder" premier of Lower Saxony. The outcome was a slap in the face for Helmut Kohl, national chairman of the CDU (and unsuccessful challenger to Schmidt in 1976) who had championed Albrecht's cause.

The Strauss victory was attributed to no small degree to widespread dissatisfaction within the conservative coalition ranks. Kohl was often considered "faceless," though his loss in 1976 was a close one. The Telegraph said the Strauss nomination was a clear case of the tail wagging the dog, since the CSU Bavarian wing of the coalition, run by Strauss, has only 53 deputies in the Bonn Bundestag, compared with 200 for the CDU, which covers the rest of the country. Added the Telegraph:

"That the CSU was able to win over so many CDU MPs scarcely a month after the CDU executive had unanimously backed the Albrecht candidacy is a measure of the disarray within the main opposition party. Disenchanted Christian Democrats began rallying to Herr Strauss as soon as he threw his hat into the ring, some five weeks ago. They wanted a 'strong man' image to present to the country instead of the weakness and disunity pervading CDU headquarters in in Bonn."

Strauss, who sensed the growing support for his nomination, suggested during the party campaign the possibility that if he were not nominated he might split the CDU/CSU coalition and "go national" with his Bavarian faction. Apparently enough CDU members were concerned about this mild threat, along with having doubts about the untested Albrecht, to throw their lots in with Strauss.

But Could He Win It All?

The big question now, of course, is how the Bavarian strongman will fare in the big contest next year against the popular Herr Schmidt.

There is no doubt that if the election were to be held in the very near future, Strauss' chances would be two — slim and none. One recent public opinion poll indicated that the 63-year-old Bavarian leader would get only 31 percent of the vote, with 58 going to the Chancellor.

But mid-summer 1979 is not late 1980. (Although no date for the election has been set, it probably won't be held until the second half of next year, probably in the fall.) Much can happen between now and then — and, looking at world conditions, especially with regard to OPEC, sky-rocketing oil prices and a declining world (and probably by then West German) economy, a marked shift in Herr Strauss' favor will very likely occur. This prospect was examined by editor The0 Sommer, writing in the German weekly, Dei Ziet, July 6, 1979:

"Who says that Strauss is really going to loose the congressional elections? Yes, the polls speak against his victory ... But what would happen, if economic development would escape the grip of the chancellor. In case inflation and unemployment would rise next year, the economic growth would diminish, [then] every gas pump would become an advertising sign against the coalition government. What if his party would continue to move away from Helmut Schmidt more toward the left? ,fi?hen7 the Free Democrats would swing toward the right ... then we would have chancellor Strauss. Most of all though, a chancellor without self control, brakes or dependable safeguards."

This latent fear of the "uncontrollable Strauss" was expressed in an editorial in the Berliner Morgenpost of July 8 (and our thanks here to the Bonn office for answering our request for up-to-date German press analysis):

"He [Strauss] is accorded either warmest sympathies or flaming hatred. He is stylized as savior or as spoiler.... he is accused of being a demagogue possessed by ambition, a man of power who served his apprenticeship under Machiavelli and who jettisons all morality from politics. On his march into the chancellor he has to study the high art of balance, moderation and self control."

The Times Will Determine the Man

There are some West Germans who describe Franz-Josef Strauss as a Stehaufmaennchen, one of those tumbler-toys, rounded and weighted at the bottom, which, no matter how often knocked over, bounces right back again. His career is speckled with incidents, such as the "Spiegel affair" of 1962, that would have sent most other politicians packing into retirement. Yet here he is, as John Dornberg writes in the International Herald Tribune (June 12, 1979), "back in the limelight making what appears to be a final all-or-nothing bid for national power."

Yet, despite Strauss' flare for oratory, it will probably be the direction of world events over the next year, more than anything else, that will pave his pathway to power. Strauss himself has curiously seemed to believe such could be the case. Over eight years ago, in May, 1971, Strauss told der Spiegel: "I hope the German people will never be so bad off that they think they have to elect me federal chancellor."

Gene H. Hogberg, News Bureau

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Pastor General's ReportJuly 11, 1979Vol 3 No. 26