After the television duel between the CDU and AfD, there is a fight for the sovereignty of interpretation. An expert draws a negative conclusion.

Höcke and Voigt's television duel

Björn Höcke (AfD, left) and Mario Voigt (CDU, right), main candidates for the state elections in Thuringia, in the television duel on Welt TV Photo: Michael Kappeler/dpa

After a multitude of praise and criticism were published during the night, the fight for the sovereignty of interpretation continues the next day. Mario Voigt, state leader of the CDU in Thuringia and leading candidate in the September regional elections, invited a debate on the background on Friday morning.

Only what is published later may be cited. Only one thing: The CDU man is satisfied with himself and with the television duel he had with his AfD opponent Björn Höcke on Thursday night in prime time on WeltTV. Among all, Höcke stands out, one of the most radical of the AfD and classified as a right-wing extremist by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. “This is the right path,” says Voigt. “The differences have become clear.”

For the CDU man it is especially important that Höcke reinterpreted the term “remigration” when he and the two moderators raised it. For the New Right, “remigration” generally means the expulsion of millions of people with immigration records, including those with German passports. Höcke already explained this clearly in a book in 2018. Suddenly, the mourning will focus on Germans who have emigrated abroad and should be brought back. “This will make Höcke untrustworthy and will harm his community in the long run,” says Voigt.

Communication consultant Johannes Hillje, who has long worked with the AfD, says: “Höcke has a tactical approach to his own position and has gotten his way again.” His own agenda seems less radical Targeting broader groups is an important strategy for right-wing extremists.

For Voigt, the evening was worth it.

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The example shows how different you can see what happened for 71 minutes on Thursday night. It was about Europe, migration and the culture of remembrance. After all: the catastrophe did not happen. Although Mario Voigt had to find the right tone and stumbled on the topic of the economy, he did not lose the duel. But that doesn't mean anything good.

For Voigt, however, the evening was already worth it: strategically it was about two things: becoming better known and overtaking Prime Minister Bodo Ramelow (Left Party) as his main opponent. The AfD is clearly ahead in the polls, but since no one wants to form a coalition with them, the fight for the position of prime minister will probably be fought between the CDU and the left. That is why Mario Voigt wants to make the regional elections a duel between the CDU and AfD. If you want to prevent the far-right Höcke, you have to vote for the CDU, that should be the message to voters.

“It's easy to call him fascist. I don't have to do that, a court has already done it,” Voigt said about Höcke at some point during the duel. The fact that he agreed to offer this fascist a national podium in order to raise his profile, which makes Höcke look like a completely normal competitor and thus normalizes right-wing extremism, was harshly criticized beforehand. Höcke also plays on this by penetratingly calling the Christian Democrat “colleague Voigt”. Furthermore, all this occurs on the anniversary of the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp in Thuringia.

Others congratulated Voigt for his bravery. Communication consultant Hillje is upset about this: “It was not possible to expose Björn Höcke in terms of content, as Voigt promised with great pride,” he says. The differences were already clear beforehand. Höcke “lied, distorted, trivialized” and got away with it. The right-wing extremist's problem was not questions of content, but rather ideological questions, such as the politics of memory.

Which raises the question of whether someone like Höcke can be asked about the content in such a television format. Johannes Hillje says there was no winner on Thursday. And he adds: “If there is no winner between a democrat and a right-wing extremist, that is bad for democracy.”