In Dresden, the style of political conflict has plunged to a new low yesterday night when Pegida marchers carried gallows “reserved for Merkel and [vice chancellor and SPD leader] Gabriel” – a classic extreme right prop that nicely complements the usual rallying cries of “lying press” and “traitors of the people”. At first I was a bit sceptical about the authenticity of the pictures on twitter, but this one was snapped by a journalist for public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk, who retweeted it, together with the backstory. It’s now another case for the prosecutor (incitement, which carries a penalty of up to five years – still better than a high treason charge, I guess).
With all the excitement about Pegida (they are back to 8,000-10,000 marchers each Monday, still considerably lower than the 25,000 they could muster in January), it’s easy to overlook that Pegida is still is, and has mostly been confined to Dresden and the surrounding area, which has a disturbing history of extreme right mobilisation. Outside of (southern) Saxony, the various -gida branch organisations quickly collapsed.
But remarkably, the AfD state party in Thuringia is hell-bent to become Pegida’s structural equivalent, with thousands sometimes violent protesters marching the streets of sleepy Erfurt on Monday nights (as always, the Blick nach Rechts blog has the juicy details). That just goes to show that the Lucke-less AfD is still a pretty heterogeneous bunch, with powerful, largely independent state-level leaders representing different brands of rightism. In the case of Thuringia, the local leader seems to be gunning for that tiny spot just to the left of traditional right-wing extremism.
To end on a more heart-warming note, Frauke Petry (boss of the state party in Saxony and newly minted national leader) has informed the party faithful that she and Marcus Pretzell (ally, leader in North Rhine-Westphalia, UKIP admirer and formerly one of Lucke’s bug bears) are now officially “more than just friends”. Yet, while there is such a thing as too much information, there is no such thing as an unmixed blessing: In an act of apparent revenge, Petry’s soon to be ex-husband has joined the CDU and began tweeting pro-refugee messages.