Bavaria's Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) is sticking by his deputy Hubert Aiwanger (Free Voters) despite numerous allegations in the affair surrounding an anti-Semitic leaflet from his school days. From his point of view, a dismissal would not be proportionate, said Söder at a press conference in Munich. Before making his decision, he had a long conversation with Aiwanger.
Söder five points against the dismissal
Söder justified his decision against dismissing Aiwanger with five points. After evaluating “all the facts available”, it was like this for him in the end, said the CSU boss in Munich: “Firstly, he probably made serious mistakes in his youth, which he also admitted. Secondly, he apologized for them and distanced himself from them and also shown remorse."
And further: "Third: To this day, there is no proof that he wrote or distributed the leaflet, but there is his very clear declaration that it was not him. Fourth: Since the incident back then, there has been nothing comparable. Fifth, it was indeed 35 years ago. Hardly any of us are the same today as we were when we were 16."
coalition to be continued
"We will be able to continue the civil coalition in Bavaria," said Söder on Sunday in Munich.
The CSU boss emphasized: "There will definitely be no black and green in Bavaria." Söder also said: "And all offers from the opposition that are now being made are in vain."
Aiwanger: "Dirty campaign failed"
"It was a dirty mess," said Aiwanger during an election campaign appearance in a beer tent in Grasbrunn (Munich district). "The Free Voters should be weakened." But the party was "reinforced" by the allegations, said Aiwanger. "We have a clean conscience." His opponents have failed with their "dirty campaign".
Some of those involved would later have to distance themselves from this "campaign", said Aiwanger.
Aiwanger had recently had to answer Söder's extensive list of questions about the allegations in writing. After that, Söder made his decision - as announced. The CSU and Free Voters have always stated that they want to continue their coalition after the election.
New allegations had been made against the Free Voters leader for a week. On Saturday a week ago, he initially denied in writing that he had written an anti-Semitic leaflet when he was at school, which the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" had reported on. At the same time, he admitted that “one or a few copies” had been found in his school bag. Shortly afterwards, Aiwanger's older brother declared that he had written the pamphlet.
Apologies from Aiwanger
On Thursday, Aiwanger apologized publicly for the first time. With regard to the allegations, he stuck to his previous statements - in particular that he did not write the leaflet and that he could not remember giving the Hitler salute as a student. On He either did not comment on further allegations or said that he could neither deny nor confirm them from his memory.
At the same time, the head of the Free Voters counterattacked, complaining about a political campaign against him and his party - which immediately brought him new allegations, for example from the Central Council of Jews.
The fact that Söder is currently sticking with Aiwanger despite everything is likely to be related in particular to the imminent state elections on October 8th. Even if the CSU and Free Voters want to continue their coalition, Söder recently said that coalitions "did not depend on a single person". "It's the same with or without a person in state office." However, the Free Voters stand firmly by their leader. Regardless of the affair, Aiwanger is sometimes celebrated vigorously during election campaign appearances.
Habeck with sharp criticism
Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck sharply criticized Södern's decision. "Possibly getting lost as a young person is one thing, making yourself a victim as a responsible politician and shaking the democratic foundations because of the staging is another," said the Greens politician to the dpa. "There's a line crossed."
Against this background, Söder's decision was "unfortunately not a good one," explained Habeck. "It's not about the youthful sins of his coalition partner, but ultimately about the basic consensus of this republic, which every federal and state government must fully protect."
Despite all the differences in the matter, the CSU has always seen itself as a state-supporting party of the center that upholds the basic consensus of this republic, according to Habeck. "Part of it is that remembering the Holocaust is central and we mustn't relativize it. But that's exactly what Mr. Aiwanger did and portrayed himself as a victim."
Faeser on the Söder decision: "power calculation"
Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) described Söder's decision to stick with Aiwanger as damage to Germany's reputation. "Mr. Söder did not decide out of attitude and responsibility, but out of simple power calculations," she told the editorial network Germany (RND).