May 262019
 

Germany – no EP electoral threshold for the last time

There are currently 111 ‘political associations’ registered with Germany’s federal electoral commission. 41 of them (counting the CDU and the CSU separately) are fielding candidates in the upcoming European elections.Why are they doing it? Narcissism aside, this is a national election that is held without an explicit electoral threshold (this is going to change), so even fringe parties have a real chance of winning a seat. Plus (and this is a big plus), if they manage to win at least 0.5 per cent of the vote, they qualify for Germany’s very generous system of public party funding.An even bigger plus is that regular participation in elections turns a mere ‘association’ into a proper party that enjoys a special privilege: it can only be banned by a super-majority in the Constitutional Court.This latter point is particularly relevant for parties at the the far-right of the far-right end of the political spectrum.

Who is more right-wing than the AfD?

There are several parties to the right of the AfD. The most prominent of these parties is the NPD. The Constitutional Court has ruled that their ideology closely resembles that of the original Nazi party but still refused to ban them, essentially because they are electoral irrelevant (they still managed to win a seat in the EP in 2014). In 2014, they garnered 301.139 votes (1%), which was enough to secure them a seat – currently their last one outside of local councils. Their lone MEP is former party leader Udo Voigt, a convicted Holocaust denier and Nazi apologist. I’m not in favour of using terms like “neo-fascist” with abandon. It’s misleading and hence bad science. But the NPD is literally a neo-Nazi party.

And then there is “Der Dritte Weg” (“The Third Way” – sorry, Anthony Giddens) – a party for people who think that the NPD is too modern and wimpish. Many of its ~500 members used to belong to militias that could be dissolved much more easily by the authorities than an organisation recognised as a party. They are a bunch of hyper-traditional right-wing street-fighters.

In terms of electoral support, the Third Way is less than irrelevant. They don’t even exist as a party in the northern states. In the most recent state election down here, they scored a cool 0.1 per cent, and I don’t think they have any candidates in this year’s local elections. But they have managed to draw up a list for the EP 2019. And, more specifically, they managed to put up a number of posters around our commuter rail station.

Right-wing extremist campaign posters from hell

These posters make it wonderfully clear what the Third Way is all about, and so I’ll cap off this year’s election posters from hell series with them. They are truly hellish, but in a different way. Here is the first one:

third way EP 2019 campaign poster - defend Europe's borders

Defend Europe’s borders. That’s a bit boring really

“Defend Europe – close the borders”. This one is a bit of disappointment. First, why defend “Europe”? Sure, there is the blackboard-style font which dropped out of favour in adverts ca 1955, urging as to “vote German”. There are also the oak leaves around the Roman numeral, but they are still in use by German authorities today. The silver-black thingy could be the muzzle of a gun or a surveillance camera or perhaps a modern take on the Volksempfänger radio. But all in all, the message is a bit too 21st century. So let’s move on.

third way EP 2019 campaign poster -national and socialist

What do you get when you add one part nationalism, one part socialism, and one part revolution?

This next first exhibit is much more exciting. We learn that the Third Way is both ‘national’ and ‘socialist’. So national-socialist. It does not get any clearer. And they are also ‘revolutionaries’ – all super obvious references to ‘leftist’ wing of the Nazi movement. Extra points for the hammer/sword combination, which represents the unity of workers and soldiers. It was used, inter alia, by left-leaning Nazis and the Hitler Jugend. Then, in the 1990s, it was adopted by the autonomous neo-Nazi groups (“freie Kameradschaften”) from which the Third Way emerged. Unlike other extreme right symbols, its use is also legal in Germany.

Next is this one:

third way EP 2019 campaign poster - multiculturalism kills

Multi-culturalism makes for really bad design choices

So: multi-culturalism kills. How exactly? Presumably by diluting the pure blood of the in-group. Because apparently, it also leaves bloody hand-prints on freshly painted walls. A very similar poster by the NPD (“immigration kills”) was banned by the authorities for inciting hatred. Presumably, the Third Way got away (hah!) because they were overlooked.

Speaking of reasons for banning, there is this one:

third way EP 2019 campaign poster - prison cell reserved for

“Traitors of the people” – heard that one before?

A picture of a prison cell that it reserved for “traitors of the people” – yet another term that was used by he Nazis to justify violence and murder. I was mildly shocked that they stopped at the German version of “lock her up” and refrained from depicting a gallows.

If you are equally shocked and also confused to who exactly the traitors might be, in a bid to clarify the situation they present a handy list of traitors that need to be stopped:

third way EP 2019 campaign poster - stop the traitors of the people

Who is the enemy? Here is some clarification

The dots refer to the colours usually associated with German parties. And so the CDU/CSU are traitors b/c “asylum flood”, the SPD introduced the “Hartz IV” flexicurity legislation, the Greens are behind “gender madness”, and the Liberals want to unleash capitalism. So they want to put almost anybody in prison. Somewhat surprisingly, the Left and the AfD were not given any attention, perhaps because the colour-in thing became too confusing?

Two questions remain. First, how are these guys legal? The short answer is that banning a party is complicated and risky, and so for the time being, they are kept under observation and members will be prosecuted individually for stuff like breaking the peace. Second, where are your youthful neighbourhood anti-fascists when you need them? I have no answer to that.

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
 

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.

Dec 072015
 
Unbalanced Scale Silhouette

Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court has inched a little closer towards banning Germany’s oldest far-right party. After pondering the issue (and more importantly, the evidence) for a mere two years, the court has formally opened the proceedings that could result in a ban. A previous attempt to outlaw the NPD collapsed in 2003 because of the very large number of informers in the party’s leadership whose identity the government refused to reveal even to the high judges. This time around, the court has declared itself satisfied that the evidence is not contaminated.

Whether the party will eventually ban the NPD is a different question. The court will revisit the case in March 2016. Here is a short piece from Deutsche Welle that provides some background on the issue.

 

Nov 112015
 

I got some flak for my piece on the Pegida movement, which I wrote for the Monkey Cage, but it was mostly surprisingly polite (my favourite one was “Professor of Fairies”. That one will definitively go on my new calling cards). Most of the commenters suggested that I was trying to brownwash Pegida when I suggested that the movement is radicalising, and that there are links to the Extreme Right. Well, here is another one.

dresden 1938 photo

Photo by nemodoteles

Last Monday was the 77th anniversary of the nation-wide November pogroms directed against Jewish citizens, business, schools, hospitals, synagogues, and private homes that preluded the holocaust. While the day itself enjoys no special legal protection, it is widely seen as an occasion for quiet introspection and public remembrance. In this context, many had appealed to the Pegida organisers to cancel their usual Monday night rally.

The demonstration went ahead nonetheless, including the usual rituals. It was capped by a speech by Tatjana Festerling, a former member of the AfD. Festerling channeled the spirit of the day by demanding an end to “Nazi paranoia” and the “cult of guilt”. “Cult of guilt” (Schuldkult) is a phrase that was coined in the early 1990s. It is a highly loaded term that is used almost exclusively by the NPD and other right-wing extremist groups whenever the crimes of the Nazis are mentioned. That Festerling would use that word, on that day, and that the crowds would cheer, is significant.

May 152015
 
NPD photo

Photo by ubiquit23

If you are following the latest attempt to have Germany’s right-wing extremist NPD declared unconstitutional, you might be disappointed by the lack of news. Today, the federal states that push for such a ban have submitted four folders with additional evidence requested by the Federal Constitutional Court – evidence corroborating the states’ claim that they have “switched off” their many informers in time for the new trial. Last time round (in 2002/3), a qualified minority of judges had refused to hear the case against the NPD, because in their view, the party’s leadership had been infiltrated on a scale that made it impossible for the party to act autonomously. The request for new evidence does not bode well for the prosecution. The court is expected to decide in autumn whether they allow the case to go past the pre-trial stage.