"Genders? No thanks,” is the title of the CDU motion that the opposition Thuringian state parliamentary group of the Christian Democrats had decided on Thursday evening in the state parliament. According to the will of a narrow parliamentary majority, the state parliament, state government and authorities in Thuringia should not change their public communication. The resolution is purely an appeal; it is not legally binding because the application was not drafted into law.
It is remarkable how the vote came about: in the roll-call vote, the AfD factions around Björn Höcke and the Bürger für Thüringen, whose four-strong faction includes three ex-AfD members, voted. According to the State Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the AfD in Free State is “proven to be right-wing extremists”.
The federal CDU had decided in December 2018 that there should generally be no "coalitions and similar forms of cooperation" with the AfD and the left. The document on this nevertheless states: “Certain points of contact cannot be avoided in everyday parliamentary life. Because both parties were elected, they are democratically legitimized and their rights, based on the will of the voters, must of course be respected. So also the MPs of the AfD or the left have the right to choose and vote freely.”
The Thuringian CDU faction leader Mario Voigt argued similarly when WELT asked him about joint coordination with the right-wing extremists: “As the largest opposition faction, we bring independent content-related initiatives to the state parliament that correspond to our goals and convictions. We do that regardless of the question of who is for and who is against,” says Voigt. "There are no agreements with the AfD parliamentary group on our applications."
For his group it is clear: “The AfD is a right-wing extremist party. But those who give up their own convictions out of fear give the extremists power over the issues, sovereignty over the interpretation of debates and ultimately over parliamentary democracy itself.”
Voigt also defended the content of the application – which the left classified as propaganda and an expression of a right-wing Kulturkampf “as one would otherwise expect from the AfD parliamentary group”. Voigt, in turn, refers to a mentality he perceives in the country: "Thuringians are freedom-loving and direct," he said. “Aware use of the German language is important to us. Everyone should speak as their mouth grows.”
Voigt continues: “In our public institutions, whether schools, universities or administrations, there should be clear and understandable German. We reject gender language financed with tax money in public institutions. We must not lose sight of the reality of life in the country and condescendingly dictate language to them that most of them demonstrably do not want at all.”
Otherwise there is a risk "that the government and the people do not speak the same language," said Voigt. Surveys have repeatedly shown that more than a third of people reject gender language. “They consider this form to be superfluous, excessive or unnecessary. Many perceive it as paternalism, patronage or coercion. We must not overlook that.”
The Christian Democrat is currently under pressure because the Erfurt public prosecutor's office is investigating him on suspicion of corruption in commercial transactions. Premises had been searched in connection with the corruption proceedings. According to the public prosecutor's office, the allegations are related to Voigt's activities in the 2019 European election campaign. According to MDR information, he is said to have placed an order with an Internet agency, which is said to have paid him a consulting fee for it.
Voigt denies the allegations. A decision by the public prosecutor's office on indictment or termination of the investigation is expected later this year.
The Thuringian CDU has been in trouble for years - and in a dilemma that can hardly be resolved. After the scandal in February 2020, when the FDP man Thomas Kemmerich was elected Prime Minister in the state parliament with the votes of the CDU, AfD and FDP, the red-red-green minority government of Bodo Ramelow (left) initially agreed a so-called stability mechanism.
This meant that neither the Union nor the parties in the minority government were allowed to organize majorities in the state parliament with the help of the AfD. Because the CDU parliamentary group then abstained from voting in the new prime ministerial election in March 2020, Ramelow was able to be sent back to office with a simple majority of the state parliament. Left, Greens and SPD also agreed with the CDU on other issues. They initially agreed on limited cooperation. The budget was voted and approved, and some other well-defined projects were launched.
But in December 2020, the CDU canceled the stability pact. Since then, there have always been situations in which the AfD has approved Union applications. After the Kemmerich flop, however, there was no longer a real creative majority by the CDU and AfD, or even resolutions with the force of law. This is also the case with the application for a waiver of gendering. In the end, the decision of the state parliament is a non-binding recommendation - nothing more.
The CDU Thuringian meanders between cooperation with the unloved government and stubborn self-assertion - which regularly earns it the accusation of making common cause with the Höcke-AfD, which is observed by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. There is no foreseeable way out of the dilemma.
For almost a quarter of a century, Christian Democrats in Thuringia set the political tone in the state chancellery. Today, the Union is in third place in the polls in Thuringia, behind the left and the AfD. A bourgeois majority led by the CDU is not in sight; Linke and AfD together have almost 50 percent of the votes.
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