In the middle of the countryside near Marburg, the controversial head of the Free Voters and Bavarian Minister of Economics is a celebrated star guest despite the leaflet affair. He doesn’t talk about himself. A site visit.
There is an unpleasant smell of manure when Hubert Aiwanger arrives. “Die fidelen Oberhessen”, a folksy brass band, have already made the audience sway with a big trumpet and other instruments. The smell is not political. Because the huge biogas plant produces electricity and heat from all animal droppings – in other words, green energy. This could be an election issue. Normally.
The smell doesn’t bother people, the bouncy castle for children is set up right next to the facility. Instead, “Hubsi hold on” signs go up, as Aiwanger is called by friends and foes alike; Applause breaks out, cheers, Aiwanger has already taken off his jacket, his blue shirt is not yet crumpled, his sleeves are rolled up resolutely.
In Hesse, Aiwanger only says one sentence about his situation
He is warmly welcomed, kisses here and there, lots of hugs, which Aiwanger accepts with a slight distance, but you can see that he is very happy. More than 400 party members from Hesse have gathered here near the small town of Wetter, but they also want to know how Aiwanger explains the delicate leaflet affair to them. They want to know if they can still trust him after the many allegations. And whether he can remain their national chairman.
He says: “You have my back in difficult times.” But it will be the only sentence he speaks about his own situation on the official stage. The rest is campaign speech.
Weeks ago, the Hessian Free Voters invited to nowhere in central Hesse near Marburg, the occasion is the start of the postal vote. Because not only Bavaria will vote on October 8th, but also Hesse. The star guest is the head of the Free Voters, Economics Minister and Deputy Prime Minister in Bavaria, who is now controversial throughout the country.
Markus Söder, Bavarian Prime Minister, reserves the right to fire his minister after this weekend because of the allegations. He asked him 25 questions, no one knows what they are. Aiwanger delivered the replies on Friday evening. Nothing more is known about this either.
Aiwanger still seems to be undisputed among the Free Voters
Aiwanger still seems to be undisputed in the party. Not only in Bavaria. The head of the Free Voters in Hesse and member of the European Parliament, Engin Eroglu, says: “We stand behind Aiwanger as long as nothing has been proven.” The individual state associations also decided this together in an online switch. If Aiwanger did write the leaflet, says Eroglu, or if anti-Semitism can be proven against him, “an emergency meeting will be called and a decision will be made on what to do”. There is no plan B yet.
Eroglu, a German with a Turkish migration background, also says that he has never sensed a “racist or xenophobic attitude” from Aiwanger, even in personal conversations. “I’m very careful about that. Because with my name you constantly feel this rejection.” There are people in his own party who mock him as the “high-achiever Turk”. Aiwanger is not one of them.
Everyone in the audience wants “Aiwanger to continue”
In the audience, whether young or old, everyone wants “the Aiwanger to continue”. People are convinced that: he speaks directly, he says what he thinks, he sometimes overshoots the mark, but that’s okay. It’s an attitude, loosely based on the motto of the angry citizens: You’ll probably still be allowed to say that.
It’s been a week since the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” reported on an anti-Semitic pamphlet, a flyer with a perfidious competition with inhuman content. Hubert Aiwanger had it in his schoolbag 35 years ago, was sanctioned for it, but, at least he says, didn’t write it himself. But the brother.
Aiwanger acts according to the principle: Close your eyes and go through with it
Since then he has faced demands for his resignation. He publicly apologized for himself days after the allegations were made public, but it felt like he didn’t speak with confidence or human warmth. It was a duty, he was – maybe – too late for it. Perhaps he finds it difficult to honestly admit his own transgressions emotionally, or perhaps he is just convinced that he is the victim.
Contemporary witnesses, mostly anonymously, reported further things in various media that he should have shown a Hitler salute as a schoolboy, made inhuman jokes and adopted a right-wing extremist attitude. Aiwanger said if he hurt “feelings” he apologizes, he’s not a racist, he’s not a misanthrope. A teacher said Aiwanger spattered her with acid when she was a student.
Aiwanger gives his speech according to the motto “close your eyes and keep going”.
Here, near the district town of Wetter, Aiwanger gives his usual speech. Apparently according to the principle: Close your eyes and go through. He emphasizes the “peasant roots”, turns against the “ideologues” of other parties, says that only the free voters are an alternative, finds that voters “vote out of frustration with the ideological left and the Green AfD”. Railed against the traffic light heating law, announcing that he would “keep the country stable and not destroy it”. Aiwanger dreams of entering the Bundestag, he wants to “mitigate the radicalization of the right and left”.
Applause at the end. Enthusiasm. encouragement. As far as Aiwanger’s possible responsibility or guilt is concerned, nobody here is any wiser than before.