Close your eyes and push through: Under this motto, the CSU and Free Voters are rallying behind Markus Söder and Hubert Aiwanger before the election. The opposition is acting seriously, but all the more clearly.
Dozens of open questions, lots of clear criticism – but no answers: A month before the Bavarian state elections, the opposition accused Prime Minister Markus Söder and his deputy Hubert Aiwanger of a lack of willingness to clarify the leaflet affair.
In a special session in the state parliament, the behavior of the CSU chairman and the Free Voters leader was criticized as overall unworthy or purely tactical. Several speakers asked both of them to comment on numerous open questions before parliament – in vain: Söder and Aiwanger remained silent about the affair in the state parliament and left the defense to their parliamentary group leaders.
“Many questions are open, you will probably never answer them,” criticized Green Party leader Ludwig Hartmann. With a serious but clear speech, he set the tone for the debate in the interim committee, a kind of smaller plenary session shortly before state elections. “This is unworthy of a Bavarian government.”
Application for Aiwanger’s dismissal
Hartmann, like other opposition speakers after him and the Central Council of Jews before him, complained about Aiwanger’s lack of “remorse and humility.” “How does a sincere apology sound to you?” he asked. And addressed obvious contradictions in Aiwanger’s answers to the leaflet affair: that he stated that the “incident” was a “far-reaching experience” for him, but claimed that there were many gaps in his memory. Hartmann asked the Prime Minister whether and why Aiwanger’s behavior was enough for him to stay in office. “Did you prioritize maintaining power over attitude when making your decision?”
A request from the Greens and SPD to dismiss Aiwanger was rejected by the majority in the interim committee – as were requests for a formal questioning of Söder and Aiwanger at the beginning.
Two weeks ago, Aiwanger initially denied in writing that he had written an anti-Semitic leaflet when he was at school, which the Süddeutsche Zeitung had reported on. However, “one or a few copies” were found in his school bag. Shortly afterwards, his brother accused himself of being the author. As a result, more and more allegations were raised about Aiwanger’s behavior at the time. After several days he apologized but complained about a campaign against him. Söder is still sticking with him: A dismissal would not be proportionate, Söder explained on Sunday.
Söder excludes black-green government alliance
The fronts in the state parliament were clear from the start even before the special session on Thursday: the CSU and Free Voters want to continue their coalition after the election on October 8th. Söder himself – even at the height of the affair surrounding his deputy – never missed an opportunity to declare his support for the Free Voters. He continues to categorically rule out a possible black-green government alliance.
Söder made a decision with a sense of proportion and attitude and was not impressed by the “screams” of the opposition, said CSU parliamentary director Tobias Reiß. There is no evidence that Aiwanger wrote or distributed the inflammatory paper as a student. “His statement, however, is that it wasn’t him.” Reiß nevertheless harshly criticized Aiwanger’s handling of the allegations and his crisis management. He apologized late. “You don’t just have to be upright, courageous and outspoken in the beer tent.”
Free Voters faction leader Florian Streibl defended Aiwanger: “Delivering this clarification within a week is very good given the facts,” he said. The deputy prime minister ultimately “credibly assured that he was not the author of the leaflet” and apologized, said Streibl. “It takes courage to admit mistakes, and Hubert Aiwanger has shown this courage.” Streibl accused the opposition of double standards. The allegations had “taken care of American election campaign conditions,” while the Free Voters and Aiwanger were accused of populism, he said.
Criticism of Aiwanger
SPD parliamentary group leader Florian von Brunn accused Aiwanger of portraying himself as a victim; that was “unworthy.” “But it’s not about you. It’s about the office and the reputation of the Free State of Bavaria.” It also became clear during Aiwanger’s speech at a rally in Erding that he was inciting people in order to make political profit. This is a clear sign of right-wing populism. Green party leader Katharina Schulze warned that no democrat should do this.
FDP parliamentary group leader Martin Hagen said: “What a person said or did at the age of 16 should not disqualify him for political office for the rest of his life.” However, he criticized Aiwanger’s handling of the affair – and that he was not prepared to explain himself to the state parliament. AfD parliamentary group leader Ulrich Singer defended Aiwanger. “What we experienced was a political smear theater,” said Singer. The Free Voters leader was treated by Söder with his list of questions “like a schoolboy.”
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.