Bavarian premier Soeder to run for CSU party leadership

FILE PHOTO: Markus Soeder of the Christian Social Union (CSU) takes his seat after he was sworn in as new Bavarian State Prime Minister in Munich, Germany, November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Andreas Gebert

BERLIN (Reuters) - Bavarian premier Markus Soeder said on Sunday he would run to succeed Interior Minister Horst Seehofer as leader of the Bavarian CSU conservative party.

"After careful consideration and in accordance with the desire of many members, I am ready to serve my party," Soeder said in a posting on Facebook. "That is why I am running for the post of CSU party leader."

Soeder, whose decision was first reported by the German news agency DPA, said his goal was to further develop and renew the party. "Big challenges lie ahead. We can only do it together," he said on Facebook.

Seehofer announced on Monday that he would step down after 10 years at the helm of the powerful Bavarian regional sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), but stay on as interior minister.

The party is due to elect a new leader at a special party congress on Jan. 19.

Seehofer's decision 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).

Soeder, a long-time rival in Bavaria, was widely expected to seek the leadership role after the CSU suffered heavy losses in Bavarian regional elections last month.

Manfred Weber, a CSU member and the European People's Party's (EPP) top candidate in the European Parliament elections next May, has said he will not run for the position so he can focus on his European campaign.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Alexander Huebner; Editing by Susan Fenton and David Evans)