Left in shock: After German politician is smeared as an anti-Semite, his Free Voters’ party soars to 2nd place in Bavarian polls

Bavarian Governor Markus Söder, left, shakes hand with Hubert Aiwanger, top candidate of the center-right Free Voters, after the Bavaria state election in Munich, Germany. (Lukas Barth-Tuttas/pool photo via AP)
By Dénes Albert
4 Min Read

German media has been dominated with nearly non-stop coverage of allegations that Bavarian Vice-Minister Hubert Aiwanger wrote an anti-Semitic pamphlet and made edgy, racist jokes when he was 17 years old — nearly 35 years ago. However, he has not only weathered the storm and stayed in power, but the first poll taken since the scandal broke shows his party has jumped to second place in the German state of Bavaria right before elections on Oct. 8.

According to the Insa survey, if elections were held now, the right-wing, populist Free Voters would secure 15 percent of the vote, an increase of 4 points over the July survey and the highest polling result the party ever recorded.

Hubert Aiwanger has emerged from the scandal even stronger, according to polling.

The Free Voters currently serve in a ruling coalition in the German state of Bavaria with the Christian Socialist Union (CSU). The CSU lost one point in the most recent poll, but is still the most popular party at 37 percent.

Germany’s mainstream media has been running nearly non-stop stories about Aiwanger, which have dominated the front pages and been run on state-media channels ARD and ZDF. Journalists dug up decades-old accusations claiming that Aiwanger wrote an alleged anti-Semitic pamphlet when he was a teenager, which had been found in his backpack. However, his brother, Helmut, has since come forward and stated he was the one who wrote it, and Aiwanger himself has denied the allegations.

Critics of the story say the pamphlet has been known about for decades and served as nothing more than an orchestrated hit campaign to collapse a right-leaning government in Bavaria shortly before elections in October.

Left-liberal media outlets and parties went into a rage when they learned that Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder would not drop Aiwanger as a partner in his ruling coalition. There had been hopes from the left that the Bavarian government would collapse, but their rage has been likely exacerbated after polling shows that Aiwanger is in a stronger position than ever heading into fall elections. In effect, it appears that the scandal boosted his profile.

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Interestingly, the poll shows that the Free Voters emerged stronger from the scandal, but not at the expense of the Alternative for Germany (AfD), which is at 14 percent in Bavaria and is the third most popular party there. Combined, the Free Voters and AfD command nearly 30 percent of the vote. With the CSU, a marginally conservative party, at nearly 40 percent, the combined right commands nearly 70 percent of the vote in the wealthy southern German state.

In addition, in a survey for the TV channel RTL/n-tv, Forsa showed the public is behind Söder’s decision to keep Economics Minister Aiwanger in the coalition, with 58 percent of Bavarian voters backing the choice.

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