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Christian Wulff

Christian Wulff (born June 19 1959 in Osnabrück) is a German politician (CDU) and Ministerpräsident (Premier) of Lower Saxony since March 4, 2003. He became Premier of one of Germany's largest states after his Christian Democrats scored substantial gains in the 2003 legislative assembly elections. In recent months he has emerged as a contender for the office of German chancellor.


Table of contents

Early Years

Born in 1959, Wulff became a member of the Christian Democrats in the mid-1970s. In this capacity, the aspiring politician was elected a senior member of the board of the Young Christian Democrats, the CDU's youth wing in 1979. However, he decided to resign from the board in order to pursue his law degree, which he completed at the University of Osnabrück in 1986. The same year, he was elected a city councillor in his hometown.


Provincial politics

Married since 1988, Wulff soon became the provincial party's choice for Premier in the 1994 assembly elections, in which the 33-year-old neophyte faced Gerhard Schröder, Premier since 1990. Schröder soundly defeated the Christian Democrats and secured an absolute majority in the Lower Saxony legislature[1], leading some observers to doubt the wisdom of the provincial party nominating a young candidate, with virtually no province-wide following, for Premier. Wulff used the ensuing years to gain experience in leading the provincial opposition, despite being in the minority against a Social Democrat majority.


After four years of opposition, the 1998 legislative assembly election brought another opportunity for Wulff to become Premier. Indeed, the federal Christian Democrats, led by Chancellor Helmut Kohl, pinned their hopes on Wulff – a Wulff victory would have stopped the inevitable rise of Schröder to the Social Democrat nomination for Chancellor. However, supported by a tide of sympathy for his candidacy for chancellor in the 1998 federal election, Schröder was returned to power by an expanded majority – leaving Wulff to serve five more years as provincial leader of the opposition.


Schröder won the 1998 federal election, leaving the premiership to his anointed successor, Home Minister Gerhard Glogowski. The latter soon stumbled over a scandal involving free travels paid by a corporation and was succeeded by Sigmar Gabriel. In the wake of the 1999 scandal, as well as rising discontent with Schröder's federal cabinet, the Christian Democrats rose in the opinion polls and became a serious contender for power in the 2003 assembly election.


The 2003 election


With Lower Saxony announcing deeper cuts of education and municipal services, the stage was set for the 2003 election campaign. Wulff entered the race as the favourite to win the election, especially due to fatigue with 13 years of Social Democrat premiers. Wulff essentially campaigned on a platform of fiscal restraint and clear-cut reforms in the areas of law enforcement and education. Both issues were decisive in the assembly elections that led to a change in fortunes for the two major parties. The Christian Democrats, in the political wilderness since the 1990 Schröder victory, were returned to power in the Legislative Assembly, with the Social Democrats losing almost 15% of their support base. Wulff was sworn in as Premier on 4 March 2003, at the head of a coalition between centre-right Christian Democrats and liberal Free Democrats (FDP).



Premier


As Premier, Wulff has pursued a multitude of reforms, including a restructuring of the education system in Lower Saxony, as well as an increase of police officers on the beat. As of December 2004, the provincial government maintains high levels of popularity. This is particularly noteworthy, as the Wulff cabinet has carried out budget cuts, particularly in the civil service – the reforms including the abolition of an entire tier of municipal government. Wulff, widely regarded as a liberal centrist, has been mentioned as a potential candidate for the German chancellorship during the coming decade, depending on the outcome of the 2006 federal election. Surprisingly, in a recent poll, 28 per cent of all respondents named Wulff as their preferred candidate for the Christian Democrat nomination for Chancellor in the 2006 election [2] As Wulff only began his first term as Premier in early 2003, he is likely to dismiss such speculations. [3] However, those December 2004 poll numbers prove that the Lower Saxon premier might be one of the leading contenders for the CDU nomination in 2010 or 2014. Speculation has particularly increased since the December 2004 Christian Democrat federal convention in Düsseldorf, when Wulff was re-elected deputy leader of the federal party with roughly 86 per cent of all delegates supporting him.

A Wulff candidacy for the CDU nomination for Chancellor would be especially appealing to northerners and liberals within the Christian Democrats. Outside the mold of a typical conservative, he may be able to attract swing voters disillusioned with the Social Democrat federal government led by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. Indeed, at the moment, the premier is working on increasing his visibility beyond Lower Saxony's confines, particularly by appearing frequently on TV shows and giving interviews to the national newspapers. Moreover, Wulff is also acquiring a profile on a broad range of issues, including the reform of the German language, Medicare and social security reform, as well as a modernisation of Germany's federal constitution, the Grundgesetz[4].

References

(all sites in German)

http://www.christian-wulff.de/ (The website of Christian Wulff)

http://www.landtag-niedersachsen.de/Abgeordnete/biografie.asp?abgeo=152 (biography, provided by the Lower Saxony legislative assembly)

http://www.stk.niedersachsen.de/master/C1509494_N14679_L20_D0_I484.html (Office of the Premier)








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