Aiwanger answered Söder's questions

Aiwanger answered Söder's questions

DThe processing of the affair about Bavaria’s Deputy Prime Minister Hubert Aiwanger and an anti-Semitic flyer from school days is heading for the decisive climax: the Free Voter boss has now answered questions from Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) in writing about the allegations in the room. According to information from the German Press Agency in Munich, Aiwanger’s answers were transmitted on Friday evening. The State Chancellery confirmed receipt.

Now it’s Söder’s turn, he must finally decide how to proceed: whether he will dismiss Aiwanger a month before the state elections on October 8th or not. It remained unclear when he would publicly announce this decision, whether at the weekend or later.

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Politiker Hubert Aiwanger (Freie Wähler) bei der VdK-Großveranstaltung zur bayerischen Landtagswahl 2023 in der Meistersingerhalle Nürnberg. Der Sozialverband VdK Deutschland e. V. ist mit 2,1 Millionen Mitgliedern der größte Sozialverband Deutschlands. Nürnberg, 21.07.2023

On Friday morning, Söder had increased the time pressure on Aiwanger to quickly answer Tuesday’s catalog of questions. “For me it is important that the 25 questions are now answered comprehensively and credibly, and in a timely manner. And in a timely manner is best today, in the course of the day,” said the Prime Minister on the sidelines of an appointment in Bechhofen in Central Franconia. However, he still did not set a formal deadline for his deputy. Söder called his public apology from the previous day “overdue”.

“Yeah, I did shit too when I was young”

Aiwanger then told the German Press Agency in Munich: “If the demand is by tonight, then we will try to deliver by tonight.” He added: “I don’t want to be reproached here.” At the public festival appearance in Lower Bavaria, he had just told journalists that the answer was actually only planned for next week.

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In his speech there he defended himself: “Yes, I did shit too when I was young. Yes, I messed up too.” But he doesn’t think it’s okay to confront someone later in life with things that happened 35 to 40 years ago, “up to the point of their professional annihilation”. There are many things that one would no longer do in hindsight. But you also have to allow people to become smarter in life. He spoke again of a long-planned smear campaign against him, “perhaps to bring the Greens into the state government”.

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Pressekonferenz Hubert Aiwanger

Hubert Aiwanger in an interview

Aiwanger had already denied in writing on Saturday that he had written the anti-Semitic leaflet that the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” reported on in its weekend edition when he was at school. At the same time, however, he admitted that “one or a few copies” were found in his school bag. Shortly thereafter, Aiwanger’s older brother said he wrote the pamphlet.

Aiwanger apologized publicly for the first time on Thursday. With regard to the allegations, he stuck to previous statements – in particular that he did not write the leaflet and that he could not remember showing the Hitler salute as a schoolboy. At the same time, the leader of the Free Voters counterattacked, complaining about a political campaign against him and his party.

Aiwanger bei der Eröffnung des Aschauer Marktes im Chiemgau am Donnerstag

Aiwanger at the opening of the Aschau market in Chiemgau on Thursday

Source: dpa/Uwe Lein

“The apology yesterday was urgently needed,” said Söder on Friday. “She was also overdue. And that’s why it was an important moment.” However, many questions remained unanswered, and a fair, balanced and credible decision could only be made at the very end. “It will only be decided after the questions have been answered whether everything will be sufficient in the end,” said the CSU chairman.

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More and more allegations have been made

Recently, new allegations had been raised against Aiwanger. “I can neither completely deny nor confirm other allegations such as misanthropic jokes from my memory,” said Aiwanger on Thursday. He did not respond to an accusation previously made by “Spiegel”. According to this, a former classmate is said to have sworn in an oath that Aiwanger once brought a school folder to class with a racist insult on the inside. Aiwanger did not respond to inquiries from the German Press Agency.

“I deeply regret if I have hurt feelings through my behavior in relation to the pamphlet in question or other allegations against me from my youth,” Aiwanger said on Thursday. “My sincere apologies go first and foremost to all the victims of the Nazi regime, their surviving dependents and everyone involved and the valuable memory work.” Resigning was not an issue.

Criticism does not stop even after an apology

The criticism of Aiwanger has not decreased even after his apology. The President of the Central Council of Jews, Josef Schuster, told the “Bild”: “Hubert Aiwanger’s apology to the victims and survivors of the Shoah was a good step, albeit a long overdue one.” But: “Unfortunately, he combines this with a lawsuit about a political motivation of the allegations and still lacks the will to open clarification.”

Bavaria’s Anti-Semitism Commissioner Ludwig Spaenle (CSU) criticized that Aiwanger’s previous behavior “does not correspond to the special responsibility and role model function that he has as a holder of a high state office”. “The reversal of cause and effect repeatedly presented by Mr. Aiwanger is peculiar. The cause and reason for the entire debate are the intolerable flyer and other accusations, not the questions about their clarification.

The federal government expressed concern about the reputation of the Free State. “This is now also about the image that the Free State of Bavaria gives to the world,” said Deputy Government Spokesman Wolfgang Büchner. The serious allegations against Aiwanger must be clarified, Büchner confirmed on behalf of Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD).

CDU leader Friedrich Merz said that Aiwanger’s crisis management was “frankly not what I imagine someone in such a situation would do with it”. He feels the process “in every respect as really disturbing, irritating and also horrible”.

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