Apr 252013
 

German political parties enjoy a special constitutional protection. Only the Federal Government, the Bundestag (parliament), and the Federal Council can apply for a ban, and only the Federal Constitutional Court can declare a party unconstitutional and subsequently dissolve it. Over more than six decades, the court has banned two parties: the neo-Nazi SRP in 1952 and (slightly more controversially) the communist KPD in 1956. In both instances, it was the government who initiated the process.

Back in 2001, the then Red-Green government sought to ban the NPD. The attempt failed spectacularly because a qualified minority of the judges raised procedural concerns about the very large number of informers within the party, and the unwillingness of the state to provide the names of these people. While the whole thing was ill-advised, it is best seen as part of a larger symbolic drive against right-wing extremism, which was rampant after unification and fuelled a whole host of violent hate crimes. Back then, the government cajoled the CDU/CSU and FDP into supporting the cause, and all three institutions jointly applied for a ban, thereby raising the stakes and putting a lot of pressure on the court.

This time round, the Federal Council (dominated by the SPD and Green, but with support from the centre right-led state governments) pushes for a ban, while the government has long dragged its feet and finally came up with a statement saying that they would not co-sponsor the bid but still provide assistance. While this sounds half-baked, it might actually be a sensible position, given what sort of evidence against the NPD has been collected.

The most bizarre performance, however, was delivered in today’s debate in the Bundestag. CDU/CSU and FDP tabled a motion not to support the ban and won with their majority, while the opposition voted against. Then the SPD table a motion in favour of a ban. The government parties voted against, the Left and some Greens supported the move, of course to no avail. Next came the Left with their own motion, which was supported by the SPD while the Greens abstained. Finally, the Greens argued that issue should not be rushed through parliament. Now the government and the SPD voted against, while the Left abstained. Throughout the day, everyone agreed that the NPD (which, although bankrupt and electorally battered beyond recognition held their party conference last weekend) was indeed a very nasty party. Five months to go until election day.

Oct 102012
 

If you are at all interested in political extremism, go straight to the (relatively) new hub that is the Extremis Project. Short updates by country experts, lengthy pieces of in-depth analysis, a growing research database – they have it all. Hell, they even ran a sort of birthday special for the FN’s 40th anniversary.My only qualm is the sheer volume of their output: four posts this morning before 9 am. So I should stop reading now and go back to work.

Dec 212011
 

Like a premature Christmas present, my author’s copy of “The Extreme Right in Europe” arrived before the weekend. It’s a hefty volume of almost 500 pages that comes with a equally hefty price tag of just under 80 Euros. As you can see from the table of contents (the PDF also contains the introduction and a large chunk from Gilles Ivaldi’s chapter), it’s a bit of a mixed bag, but I like the idea of bringing together  contributions on Eastern and Western Europe and dealing with multiple facets of the right (parties, movements, voters, ‘culture’). While I’m particularly partial to the chapters by Ivaldi and de Lange, which are on matters close to my own research interests,  Heß-Meining’s piece on Right-Wing Esotericism stands out for the sheer weirdness of its subject: Hitler’s hideout in the Arctic and Al Gore the Vampire, you name it. So if you’re looking for a last-minute Christmas present for this XR-head stoner uncle of yours …  just kidding of course.

As an aside, it’s remarkable that this book was published in English. The volume as well as the conference on which it is based were sponsored by French and German institutions. A few years ago, that would have meant a bilingual conference and publication. Outside Luxembourg, what is the number of scholars working in the field who could have actively participated in the conference? And how much larger would have been the number of potential readers? Individually and collectively, French and German political science might still be too big to fail for the time being, but it’s good to see that we as a discipline chose relevance. Occasionally.

To celebrate this moment of pre-Christmas clarity, here’s the author’s version of my chapter Continue reading »

Dec 022011
 

Who is afraid of whom?

The liberal German weekly Zeit has commissioned a YouGov poll which demonstrates that Germans are more afraid of right-wing terrorists than of Islamist terrorists. The question read “What is, in your opinion, the biggest terrorist threat in Germany?” On offer were right-wingers (41 per cent), Islamists (36.6 per cent), left-wingers (5.6 per cent), other groups (3.8 per cent), or (my favourite) “no threat” (13 per cent). This is a pretty daft question anyway. Given the news coverage of the Neo-Nazi gang that has killed at least ten people more or less under the eyes of the authorities, and given that the authorities have so far managed to stop would-be terrorists in their tracks, the result is hardly surprising.

Nonetheless, the difference of just under five percentage points made the headlines, because there is a subtext for Zeit readers: Germans are worried about right-wing terrorism (a few weeks ago many people would have denied that there are right-wing terrorists operating in Germany), which must be a good thing, and they are less concerned about Islamist terrorists, which is possibly a progressive thing. Or something along those lines.

But is the five-point difference real?

YouGov has interviewed 1043 members of its online access panel. If we assume (and this is a heroic assumption) that these respondents can be treated like a simple random sample, what are the confidence intervals?

Binomial Confidence Intervals

First, we could treat the two categories as if they were distributed as binomial and ask Stata for exact confidence intervals.

cii 1043 round(1043*.41)
cii 1043 round(1043*.366)

The confidence intervals overlap, so we’re lead to think that the proportions in the population are not necessarily different. But the two categories are not independent, because the “not right-wingers” answers include the “Islamists” answers and vice versa, so the multinomial is a better choice.

Multinomial Model

It is easy to re-create the univariate distribution of answers in Stata:

set obs 5
gen threat = _n
lab def threat 1 "right-wingers" 2 "islamists" 3 "left-wingers" 4 "other" 5 "no threat"
lab val threat threat

gen number = round(1043* 0.41) in 1
replace number = round(1043* 0.366) in 2
replace number = round(1043* 0.056) in 3
replace number = round(1043* 0.038) in 4
replace number = round(1043* 0.13) in 5
expand number

Next, run an empty multinomial logit model

mlogit threat,base(5)

The parameters of the model reproduce the observed distribution exactly and are therefore not very interesting, but the estimates of their standard errors are available for testing hypotheses:

test [right_wingers]_cons = [islamists]_cons

At the conventional level of 0.05, we cannot reject the null hypothesis that both proportions are equal in the population, i.e. we cannot tell if Germans are really more worried about one of the two groups.

Simulation

Just for the fun of it, we can carry out one additional test and ask a rather specific question: If both proportions are 0.388 in the population and the other three are identical to their values in the sample, what is the probability of observing a difference of at least 4.4 points in favour of right-wingers?

The idea is to sample repeatedly from a multinomial with known probabilities. This could be done more elegantly by defining a program and using Stata’s simulate command, but if your machine has enough memory, it is just as easy and possibly faster to use two loops to generate/analyse the required number of variables (one per simulation) and to fill them all in one go with three lines of mata code. Depending on the number of trials, you may have to adjust maxvars

local trials = 10000
foreach v of newlist s1-s`trials' {
qui gen `v' = .
}

mata:
probs =(.388,.388,.056,.038,.13)
st_view(X.,.,"s1-s`trials'",)
X[.,.] = rdiscrete(1043,`trials',probs)
end

local excess = 0

forvalues sample = 1/`trials' {
qui tab s`sample' if s`sample' == 1
local rw = r(N)
qui tab s`sample' if s`sample' == 2
local isl = r(N)
if (`rw' / 1043 * 100) - (`isl' / 1043 * 100) >=4.4 local excess = `excess' +1
}

display "Difference >=4.4 in `excess' of `trials' samples"

Seems the chance of a 4.4 point difference is between 5 and 6 per cent. This probability is somewhat smaller than the one from the multinomial model because the null hypothesis is more specific, but still not statistically significant. And the Zeit does not even have a proper random sample, so there is no scientific evidence for the claim that Germans are more afraid of right-wing extremists than of Islamists, what ever that would have been worth. Bummer.

Nov 142011
 

Unless you spent the last couple of days under a rock, you will have heard about the terrible series of (at least) ten neo-Nazi murders that has stunned Germany. In my view, three things are particularly remarkable about this crime.

First, the mainstream media including the public broadcasters and the left-liberal press refer to the series as ‘Dönermorde’, i.e. ‘Kebab Killings’, because most of the victims were small businessmen of Turkish origin. This is impious at any rate, and not exactly sensitive in the context of ethnically motivated violence.

Second, for most of the media the victims are ‘foreigners’ (‘Ausländer’), although they spent much of their lives in Germany. The BBC and other English-speaking media refer to ‘ethnic Turks’ or ‘persons of Turkish origin’. Much food for thought here.

Third, Germany has seventeen offices for the protection of the constitution (one in each state as well as a federal institution), effectively secret services that are given the task to observe extremists. Add to that the same number of federal and state criminal investigation offices, plus seventeen crime prosecution services, plus countless special branches and task forces who are supposed to keep an eye on Neo-Nazis.

These agencies are not understaffed or underfunded, and their employees are not lazy: In 2003, an attempt to ban the NPD collapsed because the party leadership had been infiltrated by so many undercover agents that some of the judges sitting on the Federal Constitutional Court were not sure the NPD had any political life of its own. How could the killers possibly escape this machine?

 

Three possible answers spring to mind:

  • Parts of the left claim that the state still turns a blind eye when it comes to right-wing extremism. That may or may not have been true in the past but is certainly not a correct description of the situation today. The various agencies’ performance has much improved over the last decade, and much of the increase in the number of reported hate-crimes is due to the fact that officers are now trained to look very carefully for extremist motives, and that the rules for collecting statistics have been harmonised.
  • Quite predictably, the right (and many politicians who specialise in Home Affairs) argue that coordination and communication between the various agencies need to be improved. While this may seem reasonable, this is a perennial and very delicate issue in Germany. For historical reasons, the constitution puts strict limits on the cooperation between secret services and the regular police. Moreover, policing is generally the domain of the states, which jealously guard their rights.
  • Finally, many observers just begin to wonder if one or more agencies were involved much closer with the killers than they let on at the moment. Nobody really seems to know how many Neo-Nazis are moonlighting as undercover agents for whom. Is it possible that agencies did not share their information with other institutions in order to protect their sources? Given the scale of the NPD disaster in 2003, it seems quite possible. I strongly
    suspect this is how the story will pan out over months to come.
 Random thoughts on right wing terrorism in Germany
Apr 262009
 

Here is the (almost) finalised program for the our section on the Radical Right in Perspective, organised under the auspices of the ECPR’s 5th General Conference (Potsdam, September 10-12), boasting about 50 papers.

  • Post-Soviet Russian Nationalism: Ideology, Context, Comparison
    • The ‘New Political Novel’ by Right-Wing Writers in Post-Soviet Russia
    • Ethnic Conflict and Radical Right in Estonia: An Explosive Mixture?
    • How far is Moscow Weimar? Similarities and Dissimilarities between Inter-War Germany and Post-Soviet Russia
    • From Communist Totalitarianism to Right-wing Radicalism: The Dynamics of the Crimean Peripheral Politics and Its Impact on the Ukrainian State
    • Moderating/Mediating the Extreme: The Accommodation of Xenophobic Nationalist Views on Vladimir Pozner’s Vremena Programme
    • Right-wing extremism among immigrant adolescents from the FSU in Israel and Germany
  • The causes for the success and failure of the radical right in Central and Eastern Europe
    • Are there opportunity structures for the Radical Right? A comparative analysis of the Visegrad Group countries.
    • Explaining the failure of radical right parties in Estonia
    • Manoeuvring for the Right: Atypical Features of a Bulgarian Radical Right-Wing Party
    • The Diffusion of Radical Right Ideology in Central-Eastern Europe: Cultural Resonance and Issue Ownership Strategies as Factors Behind Electoral Support Takeover
    • The Radical Right in Bulgaria
    • From Alienation of the Working Class to the Rise of the Far Right? Party Strategy and Cleavage Evolution in Post-Communist Societies
  • On the Borderline Between Protest and Violence: Political Movements of the New Radical Right
    • Radical Right and the Use of Political Violence: Idealist Hearths in Turkey in the 1970s.
    • Extreme Right and Populism: a Frame Analysis of Extreme Right Wing Discourses in Italy and Germany
    • “Armed spontaneism”: an independent revolutionary way in the Italian extreme right-wing groups
    • Movement Against Illegal Immigration: analysis of the central node in the Russian extreme-right movement network
    • Mobilizing Activism: A comparative analysis of the contemporary Right-Wing Extremists and Islamists in Germany
    • Why There has been Little Violence among East European Radicals? Transformations of Tolerance in Post-peasant Eastern Europe
  • Consequences of the surge of anti-immigration parties
    • Anti-immigrant party support and newspaper coverage: a cross-national and over-time perspective
    • A Populist Zeitgeist? Populist Discourse among Mainstream Political Parties in Western Europe
    • The Surge of the Swiss Peoples Party: Implications at Switzerland’s Subnational Level
    • Immigration policy and the populist radical right in office: The policy impact of the FPÖ/BZÖ, 2000-06
    • Rhetoric or reality? Platforms and actions of anti-immigration parties
  • The Radical Right in Western Europe
    • A Matter of Timing? The Salience of Immigration and the Dynamics of Radical Right Electoral Success
    • Old Cleavages and New Actors in the Formation of a New Cultural Divide: Why a Right-Wing Populist Party Emerged in France but not in Germany
    • The Programmatic Positions of Established Parties and their Influence on Extreme Right Parties Vote Share
    • The Influence of the Programs of Far Right Parties on the Electoral System
    • Radical Right, Populism and the Fear of Democracy
    • Explaining anti-immigrant party support in Western Europe: individual grievances, elite failure or social context?
    • Comparing radical right party ideology and the voters’ profile and attitudes: a study on the Danish People’s Party, the Northern League and the Austrian Freedom Party
  • Inside the Radical Right: An Internalist Perspective
    • The Public Image of Leaders of Right-Wing Populist Parties: the Role of the Mass Media
    • ‘This rally is a must’ – Which factors lead neo-Nazis to take part in demonstration marches?
    • Right-wing extremist groups and Internet: Construction of Identity, Source of Mobilization and Organization
    • “Enemy from inside” the party and … inside us? What the researcher does to the local teams of the radical right in France: return to a possible controversial relationship
    • Pan-German student fraternities and the Austrian Freedom Party: A reciprocal relationship
  • Party-based Euroscepticism in Western and Eastern Europe
    • europeanization of euroscepticism? the significance of european parliament groups and factions for the typology and ideological classification of party-based euroscepticism
    • euroscepticism of turkish political parties
    • hellenes-barbarians and european civilization: a conceptual approach to the ideologies of the greek far right.
    • hungary – between euroenthusiasm and euroscepticsm
    • radical right euroscepticism and the theory of strategic choice
  • neighbourhood effects revisited: the visualisation of immigrants and radical right-wing vote
    • Presence of Migrants and Radical Right Support across Different Levels of National Institutionalisation
    • Exploring the Contextual Determinants of the anti-immigrant vote: The Case of the LPF
    • Explaining the extreme right resurgence in English local elections 2002-8: a spatial model of aggregate data
    • Ethnic Identity of Second Generation Immigrants across German Regions
    • Radical right’s neighbourhoods: considering meso level explanations for its success through a case-study at the local level
    • Is Local Diversity Harmful for Social Capital? A Multilevel Research on Flemish Data
    • Immigration, diversity and civic culture in Spain
  • The radical right and the debate over immigration policy
    • After Fortuyn: new radical right-wing populist parties in the Netherlands
    • Plataforma per Catalunya: emergence, features and quest for legitimacy of a new radical right party in the Spanish autonomous region of Catalonia
    • The impact of anti-immigration parties: a comparison between the Flemish VB and the Walloon FN
    • The (de)politicization of immigrant integration and policy outcome in Belgium.

The program is still somewhat in flux, and any omissions are accidental.

Mar 192009
 

Colleagues Andrea Römmele and Thorsten Faas have set up a new blog that will cover the many German elections of 2009 (seats in the federal parliament, several state parliaments, local councils as well as the presidency are all up for grabs) and asked me to contribute. How could I resist them? “Wahlen nach Zahlen” (voting by numbers) is not yet public, but since it is already indexed by Google et al., why not spill the beans? There are already four posts (in German), and the list of (potential) contributors looks pretty good. And here is my inaugural post on right-wing extremism amongst German youngsters.