AfD talk with Caren Miosga: Ramelow: “The whole of Germany is scared of Thuringia”

Bodo Ramelow warns that “democracy is slipping through our fingers.” In the ARD talk show “Caren Miosga”, Thuringia’s Prime Minister talks about the upcoming elections in East Germany and the bogeyman AfD. The CDU and Sahra Wagenknecht also play a role.

“Is the East becoming ungovernable?” is what Caren Miosga wants to hear from Thuringia’s Prime Minister as the working title of her talk show on Erste on Sunday evening. Bodo Ramelow constantly warns of the AfD’s bogeyman. “The whole of Germany prefers to be frightened by Thuringia,” says the left-wing politician and says: His state, and East Germany in general, has too bad a reputation, but one still has to be afraid of the AfD, which is definitely classified as right-wing extremist there.

In Germany as a whole, “only the great danger in Thuringia is shown,” says Ramelow, upset. But the danger to democracy comes specifically from Björn Höcke, whose words you just have to look closely at and you’ll know everything. He must be stopped at all costs. Höcke is considered a key driver for the radicalization of the AfD; the Office for the Protection of the Constitution has been monitoring him as a right-wing extremist since 2020.

Talk show host Miosga comes in with topics that are not scary at all, but rather personal, probably to lure Ramelow out of his reserve. It’s about the biggest victory of his career, about his successful battle with dyslexia. The audience doesn’t learn much about the topic – the elections in Thuringia, Brandenburg and Saxony in just over six months – except that Ramelow “unfortunately didn’t write any love letters.”

Then one of the most negative moments in the Prime Minister’s political life comes to the table: the government crisis that FDP man Thomas Kemmerich triggered in 2020 when he was elected to office with votes from the AfD, which he took back a day later handed over. When the AfD admitted “that it had lured the FDP onto the stage and laid out a stick of lime” and when “the FDP asked me to clear out my office in the plenary hall, I found that a monstrosity,” says Ramelow. “The AfD played a game with democracy,” he explains.

Corona was the turning point

The left and he himself are being damaged – and the AfD specter is constantly pushing its mischief to new heights. The right-wing extremist party in Thuringia is now up to 36 percent in surveys (Left at 17, CDU at 20). “How could you have retained voters?” Miosga wants to know? The corona pandemic is a main reason, says Ramelow, because citizens “did not agree with my decisions”. But he was always critical of closures and compulsory vaccinations. “Corona was over at some point,” counters the talk show host. “But the division in society from the Corona period is still there,” believes the Prime Minister. “Those who took part in the Monday demonstration are now waving a peace flag and a Russian flag at the same time.”

Katharina Warda is also invited to discuss the special nature of the “scary” East Germany, where the AfD’s poll numbers are higher than in the West, and the breeding ground for right-wing issues. The Saxon sociologist, who focuses on East Germany and racism, first makes it clear: “There is no such thing as the East and the East German; such a view is part of the problem.” But her research shows “how strongly an international right identifies itself with the issue of the East and instrumentalizes the issue.” The East could be East Germany or Russia, the main thing is: “Distinction from the democratic West.” This image has “eaten deep” into East German society and is being exploited by the AfD, causing the left to lose voters.

Ramelow agrees and identifies a “chauvinism and colonialism of Vladimir Putin” that many people in East Germany do not see and would instead support Russia. In fact, in the new federal states, arms deliveries to Ukraine are usually met with rejection, an issue with which the AfD and the Left are trying to get votes. But Ramelow, who is “torn apart by the balancing act inside” – after all, he would prefer not to have to send weapons to anyone – explains: “I can’t think of any argument why we shouldn’t send weapons to Ukraine.”

Another reason for Ramelow’s poor chances in the fight for re-election, according to experts, is the feeling of many East Germans that they are left hanging by the federal government and that they are not seen enough. However, the ARD talk group failed to put its finger on the pulse here and the Prime Minister simply noted that the “eastern pension adjustment was only half-heartedly addressed” when it was announced last July, almost 33 years after the reunification was undertaken. Something like this “sticks with East Germans,” says Ramelow, who can only spend the money that the federal government makes available to them to combat poverty.

Warda does not want to release the CDU from responsibility

Thomas de Maizière is also in the discussion group. The former CDU defense and interior minister has been at home in the east of the country for 30 years and “regrets” the “deep-seated anti-Americanism” there, which plays into the AfD’s fingers. When talk show host Miosga directs the conversation to the question of whether the CDU might have to form a coalition with the Left, which its top candidate Mario Voigt had recently ruled out in order to prevent Höcke as Prime Minister, de Maizière gives up statesmanlike: advice from outside would never have been of any use.

However, Warda believes that the Union should be open to cooperation and also criticizes “the CDU’s clear demarcation to the right.” “Nope,” says the former minister, he and his party would reiterate that again and again. That Voigt Laws in the state parliament with AfD votes decided, does not mention de Maizière. However, the sociologist criticizes “the practice” of the CDU, where the slogans are becoming increasingly harsh and come from the “pit of racism” in order to lure voters away from the AfD. On the one hand, this would not work, but on the other hand, the CDU would shift issues and mood to the right and “create a climate in which it is easy to vote for the right.”

Of course, the group then discusses whether Sahra Wagenknecht and her alliance could also mutate into a ghost for Ramelow in East Germany. The Prime Minister acknowledges: “My federal party has not broadened its position, but has eroded.” The fact that Wagenknecht, of all people, is now criticizing the Left as a party of intrigue is just as “bitter” for him as the fact that it has not ruled out voting with the AfD. If his former companion manages to convey a feeling of optimism, it could lead to “my party losing even more votes,” says the left-wing politician.

The rest of Germany doesn’t have to be afraid of Thuringia. But the talk group finds no answer as to how the bogeyman Björn Höcke, who wants to drive millions of people from the Federal Republic of Germany with “well-tempered cruelty” from the AfD’s point of view, can be stopped in the elections in September. “We have to be careful that democracy doesn’t slip through our fingers in the end,” warns Bodo Ramelow. To ensure that this doesn’t happen, the majority of the country hopes that they and the other democratic parties will address the wishes, fears and needs of the citizens of Thuringia in a timely manner.

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