Volker Bouffier on the election campaign: “It will be a tough final spurt”

In the remaining two weeks, the Union is trying to turn the mood with attacks against SPD chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz. Bouffier criticized the SPD for hiding behind its candidate for chancellor during the election campaign. “The SPD is behind Scholz. Why do you think the whole party is silent? ”Said Bouffier.

Scholz refused the substantive debate and pretended to stand for a continuation, said Bouffier. “The SPD’s party congress resolutions point in a different direction.” The hint from SPD leader Saskia Esken that the Chancellor determines the political direction and not the party was described by the longest serving Prime Minister of the republic as a “fairy tale” that no one would buy from her.

In addition to the election campaign, the Hessian prime minister is worried about the corona pandemic and a possible fourth wave. Bouffier advocates restricting the rights of unvaccinated people. He called for “a nationwide regulation” so that unvaccinated workers in quarantine no longer receive wages.

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“One thing is clear: there is only compensation if it was unavoidable for the person concerned. So it is already in the law. I don’t want to rush this, but I agree with the basic idea, ”said Bouffier. According to Bouffier, a quick test should no longer be sufficient in public areas, where access is necessary for everyone. He assumes that “a PCR test will be necessary,” said Bouffier.

Read the entire interview here:

Prime Minister, the Union is hoping for a turnaround. The TV triall on Sunday evening should also contribute to this. In your opinion, did things go well for Armin Laschet?
Armin Laschet was very combative, and he put Olaf Scholz in considerable distress. He tried again to shirk his responsibility, but Armin Laschet didn’t let him get away with it. He also touched on the right topics that are important for our future. Armin Laschet was convincing, courageous and showed that the trend for the CDU is increasing and the choice has not yet been decided.

In April, together with Wolfgang Schäuble, you stood up for Armin Laschet as candidate for chancellor. Then the polls went downhill for the Union. Did you bet on the wrong person?
It is pointless to discuss such questions a few days before the general election. We all have to fight together now. And by that I mean: everyone. We have to make it clear to people that they are voting for parties and their content, and this election campaign has so far largely bypassed the content. Armin Laschet is the right man for the Chancellery: as a politician and as a person – and because he stands for the right content.

But the approval ratings for Mr. Laschet are worse than probably never before for a candidate for chancellor of the Union. Do you have an explanation for this?
We had a good situation until mid-July. I don’t want to get around: it is very difficult at the moment. But the situation is also unfair: SPD candidate Olaf Scholz refuses any discussion. At most he says: “The Chancellor and I …” There should be no going on, and yet he is conveying the need to keep going. No, people don’t fall for that.

Apparently people trust Scholz more than Laschet.
Armin Laschet rules successfully – and not Legoland, but the largest federal state in Germany. Therefore: We keep our composure and are now talking about what this election is about. The SPD is behind Scholz. Why do you think the entire party is silent? Helmut Schmidt failed because of the voters, but because of his party. Gerhard Schröder failed because of his party.

SPD leader Saskia Esken says Olaf Scholz determines the political line, not the party.
Who should buy the fairy tale from her? The party congress resolutions of the SPD point in a different direction. Everyone who takes up the chancellery has to agree with his party on the basic questions. If the two do not agree, then sooner or later everything will be just a laborious compromise and doomed to failure.

And now does Armin Laschet fail because of his party?
No, Armin does not fail at all because of his party. We have a situation that has never been seen before: We have ruled for 16 years, the incumbent is quitting, and we have to manage the feat of appreciating the successful past and at the same time standing for a new beginning – and all after two years, in which the party had to laboriously find the party leader and we had to come to an agreement with the CSU about the candidacy for chancellor.

“The people don’t want a left government”

What is the mood like at the election booths?
People are most likely to trust the Union to solve the problems. The people don’t want a left government. That’s why the colleagues from the SPD are so excited. It’s going to be a tough final sprint, no question about it. But I am optimistic that the result on election day will be different from the previous polls.

Which one?
A union that unites the most votes. We want to become the strongest force.

Now it is emphasized that you do not want to raise taxes, combine climate protection with jobs – and all the other points that distinguish you from a left-wing government. What else do you want to score with these days?
We just have to look at reality: Olaf Scholz has had a template on his desk for weeks so that we can protect the Bundeswehr with armed drones. He just doesn’t do anything. This is just one of many examples.

Armin Laschet

The North Rhine-Westphalian Prime Minister is fighting for chancellorship.

(Photo: imago images / Jürgen Heinrich)

How does the Union feel about financial and tax policy?
There are two principles: we want to continue our budgetary policy without new debt. That alone distinguishes us from the others. And: We want to set priorities. We want to relieve families with children and completely abolish solos.

Can this be financed in view of the enormous debt burden from the corona pandemic?
Yes I think so. The pandemic is not over and it has far-reaching consequences. We can now give people confidence that we will emerge strong from the crisis with innovation, risk-taking and new technologies. Or we explain to them that we tax every success after the crisis higher and burden families by abolishing the splitting of spouses. The Union has made a clear decision: for the first idea. I would like to remind you that we also got over the financial crisis without increasing taxes.

“Infrastructure is the key to our future”

But the challenges will probably be bigger these days, keyword energy and climate policy. How should the switch be financed?
It is very important that we abolish the Renewable Energy Sources Act. It hinders many who want to invest, makes the energy turnaround unnecessarily expensive and is also wrong from an ecological point of view.

Progress is not only sluggish with the energy transition, but also in the transport sector. Why is that?
If we want a traffic turnaround, but at the same time need 31 years for one meter of new track, then we can end the discussion. We must also bring electricity from north to south; for this we need lines. The Union has the courage to accelerate the planning process and, for example, only allow objections until a certain point in time, but the SPD and the Greens say: No. The infrastructure is the key to our future.

According to the climate law, however, the goals must be achieved immediately. Will gasoline prices have to rise then?
Then we would betray jobs and wealth. We have to bring both together. Yes, climate protection, while preserving jobs and prosperity. This is the only way we have a chance. People will not go along with you if you prohibit them from driving or flying. We must devote all our energy to promoting innovation and, for example, developing CO2-free fuels.

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Why does the corona crisis not play a role in this election campaign?
Corona worries people much more than the election campaign suggests. The crisis affects all areas of life. According to the Infection Act, we as federal states have to pass new ordinances every four weeks on how to proceed in old people’s homes, at the hairdresser’s, in clubs and at school. These are the issues that concern people; they are not suspended from party politics.

But people want to know how a party feels about the unvaccinated and who has which concepts for schools, for example.
Yes of course. The 3G regulation must apply wherever access is necessary for everyone, i.e. in public areas. I assume that the rapid test will not be sufficient in the future, but that a PCR test will be necessary. Private companies can already say today: Unvaccinated people do not come into my business. Those who do not vaccinate have to accept that. The only question left is: How is that going to be designed? We are discussing this.

The question is whether he really has to. On top of that, there is now talk of preventing unvaccinated people in quarantine from continuing to pay their wages. Isn’t that exclusion?
I don’t believe in stigmatization. But one’s own freedom ends where the freedom of others is restricted.

The vaccinated are free.
The state would do well to limit freedom only where there is no other way. But we can’t care if someone could infect someone else. The pandemic is not over. We have to act appropriately. We don’t stigmatize anyone. As I said: we live in a free society. The state does not grant civil liberties, the people have them. If we restrict such freedoms, it is only to protect others. Anyone who does not want to be vaccinated has to accept that. It cannot be the other way around, that everyone follows his taste.

And what about the continued payment of wages?
As far as the continued payment of wages is concerned: I would like a nationwide regulation. One thing is clear: there is only compensation if it was unavoidable for the person concerned. So it is already in the law. I don’t want to rush this, but I agree with the basic idea.

So soon we will not have “Freedom Day” and know: the pandemic is over?
The honest answer is, no one knows exactly how things will go. Compared to last year, however, we are in a much better position: We have medicines, vaccines and many people who have been vaccinated. From a certain vaccination quota we will no longer need any restrictions. I don’t know when this will be. Corona does not go away. Therefore I can only call for vaccinations here. This is the best way to contain Corona. But there will no longer be a lockdown.

Mr. Bouffier, thank you very much for the interview.

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