Hubert Aiwanger of the Free Voters outperformed the Prime Minister of the CSU at a demonstration in Erding against the policies of the Greens. The event attracted a lot of attention and could create a new dynamic. In Bavaria, almost everything has revolved around Erding since Saturday, where around 13,000 people have come together. Her motivation was the anger at the politics of the federal government. Normally, protest movements need a concrete trigger, and in this case it was the plans for the heat transition from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Protection. The origin of the movement was an optician from Erding, who had demonstrated alone in his home town against these plans (Cicero: 12.06.23).
Aiwanger vs. Söder: credibility and political resentment against the Greens
In Erding, Aiwanger and Söder were received differently: Söder was booed, while Aiwanger received great applause. Aiwanger spoke like Monika Gruber and sharply criticized the federal government. The key difference between the two politicians, however, lies in credibility.
Many people who are appalled by the policies of the Green-dominated federal government do not trust the politicians of the Union parties to effectively stop them. This is also reflected in the polls. The Union does not benefit nearly as much from popular dissatisfaction as one would expect from the largest opposition party. This applies in particular to the CDU at the federal level. It is difficult to imagine how Friedrich Merz would have been received in Erding.
In Bavaria, Söder is not dependent on the Greens. But many people suspect that, if in doubt, he would be willing to make concessions in a coalition with the Greens. The current political resentment is directed against the political agenda of the Greens, which not only dominates the current federal government, but also all politics and media operations. However, the Union parties, predominantly the CDU, have not yet made it convincingly clear that they want to offer a clear alternative to this agenda.
Political lessons from Erding: Union politicians must represent legitimate displeasure
Söder and other Union politicians outside of Bavaria can learn two lessons from the weekend in Erding. First, it is their democratic duty to provide political representation for this legitimate resentment to prevent resentment from taking more radical paths. Secondly, their only long-term prospect of survival is to present themselves as political opponents of the Greens and their projects instead of being potential coalition partners and vicarious agents. Parties and politicians are permanently elected if they can demonstrate that factual political goals and defending against the goals of others are more important to them than mere prospects of power.
Politicians from the Greens and SPD reacted hysterically and accused Söder and Aiwanger of populist rhetoric. There was even talk of a “right-wing mob” on Twitter. This is an attempt to morally discredit criticism of green politics. This shows how much some fear the loss of their own sovereignty in opinion. However, the police chief of Erding praised the peaceful course of the demonstration and the level-headed behavior of the participants. Reportedly, only about ten participants turned out for an anti-Gruber demo, as the Greens appeared to have canceled a planned counter-demonstration.
Political dynamics expected: protests in Munich could change everything
The effects of these accusations of populism are likely to be greater in the political establishment itself than on the people who suffer directly from the consequences of political decisions. If it is considered populist not to want to live in poverty, the accusation loses its effect. This could soon become apparent at the Theresienwiese in Munich. There Gruber and her fellow campaigners want to hold their protest action in a larger version. The exact date has not yet been set, but there is already talk of 100,000 participants. After this weekend, that no longer seems unrealistic. If this succeeds, it could trigger a political dynamic that will change many things.
It seems that Robert Habeck’s enthusiasm for the unconditional heat transition has waned as he now publicly expresses his fondness for district heating. His ministry may be busy working on derogations in the heating law. Perhaps someone will remind him and his party friends of what has become of the compulsory vaccination that was once so passionately demanded.