Mar 152016
 
Ballot - Vote

So once in a lifetime, I was interviewed by a Czech newspaper. I recognise the people in the photo. And my name.

Mar 132016
 

A mere three hours after the event, it’s obviously too early to write something coherent about the three state elections that were held in Germany today. So let’s try it anyway:Ballot - Vote

  1. For the time being, Germany has a viable Radical Right Populist Party. A result of ~24% in the Eastern state of Sachsen-Anhalt is a bit of a shock, but no huge surprise. The real clincher are the (low) double digit figures in the Western states of Rheinland-Pfalz and Baden-Württemberg. In the latter, the AfD is stronger than the SPD.
  2. The AfD cannibalised all the smaller right-wing parties including the NPD.
  3. This was not (just) a referendum on Merkel and her policies. While the issue dominated the campaigns, personalities and state-level factors were important. And the two CDU leaders who toyed with a (very tame) rebellion against Merkel did not gain from it.
  4. The volatility is shocking. Period
  5. German states have parliamentary systems, but popular minister presidents exerted an almost presidential effect. The contrast could not be more striking: In Baden-Württemberg, Kretschmann’s Greens are the strongest party (in itself something that is hard to believe), whereas their junior partner, the SPD, is heading for single-digit territory. One key reason is Kretschmann’s enormous popularity. In neighbouring Rheinland-Pfalz, minister president Dreyer has always been more popular than both her opponent and her SPD. But the latter steadily recovered in the polls over the last couple of weeks pull ahead of the CDU to become the strongest party with a respectable result. The Greens, on the other hand, lost two thirds of their support and might still end up without parliamentary representation. Being the smaller party in a coalition run by a popular minister president is not an attractive proposition these days.
  6. Turnout is up, yet it’s the non-established AfD that benefits from it. As a rule of thumb, right-wing outfits in Germany have always performed best in low-turnout, second-order elections. But this time, exit polls suggest that at least in the East, former non-voters gave the AfD a huge boost.
  7. And the Liberals are back.
Mar 122016
 

The Extreme Right in Germany never fails to amaze. For those who think that the NPD – currently under threat to be banned because of their family resemblance with the original Hitler party – has gone to soft & mainstream, there is a tiny newish party that has a more … traditional … approach to politics. The party is contesting Exhibit 1 is a screenshot from their web page.
dw0
“Stop the flood of asylum seekers” and “close the borders” (on the left) are pretty much mainstream these days. The AfD uses very similar slogans, though with a less Teutonic font (look at those Roman numerals!)

But the barcode on the right instructs the aspiring nationalist how to spot products made in Israel. Right.
dw1
Exhibit 2 is even more revealing. It shows a map of refugee shelters in Germany, along with a “German winter relief” poster that could be straight from the 1940s. But my favourite is the picture in the bottom right, which calls for the destruction of Capitalism, which is to be replaced by “German Socialism”. This is otherwise known as “National Socialism”.

The name of this outfit? “Der Dritte Weg”, or The Third Way. Eat your heart out, Anthony Giddens.

Mar 122016
 

Mit Katrin Heise von Deutschlandradio Kultur habe ich ein ausführliches über Rechtspopulismus gestern und heute und über den Umgang mit der AfD geführt.

Mar 112016
 
Ballot - Vote

Over at Handelsblatt Global, Siobhán Dowling has another excellent article on the state of German (state) politics, with a little input from yours truly.

Mar 112016
 
pegida

On Wednesday, I was live on NPR’s Worldview program talking about the possible ban of the NPD, the rise of the AfD, and the implications for the EU. That sounds like a lot of acronyms, but then again, 15 minutes was more than the 90 seconds of soundbites I had budgeted for 🙂

 

Mar 042016
 
Unbalanced Scale Silhouette

After a subjective decade, the trial that could lead to a ban of the right-wing extremist NPD, Germany’s oldest surviving Extreme Right party, has finally begun this week. That alone is news: Last time around, a blocking minority of the judges was so concerned about the unknown informers within the party’s leadership that the proceedings came to an end during the pre-trial phase. But to dissolve the party, six of the eight judges will have to vote in favour of a ban.

So what have we learned from three days of hearings? Not too much, actually. The court’s president said that this time, they were not fussed about any informers, but that was clear from the day that a date for the hearing was announced.

On the second day, the judges posed some very awkward questions to the counsel for the prosecution. After all, the NPD is nearly bankrupt, has only several thousand members, and has lost most of its parliamentary representation a while ago. There were some points in its 50+ year history when it has been weaker, but not too many, so why ban it now? So everyone was mentally preparing for yet another embarrassing failure to get rid of the NPD.Unbalanced Scale Silhouette

But then, on the final day of the hearings, the mood seemed to change: Experts and witnesses from the north-eastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the party’s remaining stronghold of sorts, spoke of the atmosphere of fear and threats that has engulfed many villages and smaller towns in this region. According to their testimony, the NPD forms the organisational backbone of a large-scale right-wing extremist network for which they provide funds and political cover. Although their membership and electoral support are dwindling, they could pose a danger to democracy, at least at the regional level. The judges seemed quite impressed.

So what will happen next? We don’t know. The judges will now ponder the evidence for an indefinite number of months before they come up with a verdict. If they decide that the party is indeed unconstitutional, this would be the first such ban since 1956, and the NPD might challenge the decision in the European Court of Human Rights, creating unprecedented legal complications. And if the court throws out the case again, it does not take a seer to predict that there will be no new attempt to ban a party in a couple of decades. Either way, their verdict will be a landmark in the legal-constitutional history of the Federal Republic.