At the end of a hot summer day full of election campaign dates in the Hessian province, Volker Bouffier was sitting with his wife and journalists.

As was usually the case, only Hesse's prime minister spoke, at some point also about the difficult issue of quitting.

He had been asked about the Chancellor's political future, it was before she withdrew from the post of party chairman.

Bouffier spoke in general terms, but it was clear that the words applied to him as well.

Even then, in the summer of 2018, there were people in his party who asked how he was planning to hand over official business in Hesse.

It is important to stop when there are enough people who have courageously and honestly advised it, said Bouffier.

For such a decision you need good friends who said: Now it's good.

Julian Staib

Political correspondent for Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland based in Wiesbaden.

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Bouffier took his time with this step.

From the point of view of many in his party, too much.

The CDU had long been calling for the 70-year-old Prime Minister to explain when he would finally initiate the transition to a successor.

After the lost federal election, the calls became louder.

It shouldn't go the way it did with Angela Merkel, it was said again and again.

But Bouffier waited.

So long that in the end he was only able to decide when to leave.

He no longer determined his successor.

Bouffier is now retiring this Tuesday.

How difficult it is for him has been seen in the past few weeks.

When he gave little farewell speeches during the few public appearances he still made.

In 1987 he held a government office in Hesse for the first time, at that time as State Secretary in the Ministry of Justice.

He has been in government for 23 years without interruption, since 2010 as Prime Minister.

What is left of him?

Koch followed his friends

In the end, what remained was the image of a man handing over power to someone he never really wanted to give it to.

That became clear in February at a meeting of the Hesse CDU in Fulda.

Then Bouffier announced his resignation from the post of prime minister and party chairman and announced that the current state parliament president, Boris Rhein, would succeed him.

Normally, on such occasions, the successor is lavishly praised.

But Bouffier didn't say a word about why he thought the man next to him was suitable.

He only stated that he was convinced that Rhein "together with the Greens had the best prerequisites" to continue the coalition work and to be a successful Prime Minister for Hesse.

He did not say what the requirements are.

In Fulda, Bouffier presented the transition as a "very careful" process that had been planned for a long time, in which a decision was made "some time ago".

But his party tells a completely different story.

Accordingly, Bouffier preferred a number of other CDU members as possible successors.

But too many scandals stuck to some, others lacked the necessary support in the party and parliamentary group.

In the end only the Rhine remained.