Elections in Berlin: Provocations of Germany's Neonazi-Party
In a bit more than a month, on the 18th of September, there will be elections in Berlin.
Berlin is one of the 16 federal states Germany consists of, the mayor of Berlin therefore has a rank comparable to a govenor of a state in the USA.
I would like to report a bit about the local elections to give you an insight into the German political system and the different parties trying to get into the local parliament.
Today I will start with a party that has no chances of actually getting into the parliament and that might not even exist much longer in the first place, but always stands out when it comes to provocation: the NPD.
NPD stands for Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands, National Democratic Party of Germany.
They are a nationalist party of the far right and even though they would always deny it, most people would say they are a Neo-Nazi party.
Unlike the former ruling socialist party of the GDR, the NSDAP of Adolf Hitler was disbanded after WW2 and does not exist any longer. But there are parties who follow the Nazi ideology indirectly and continue their racist and nationalistic points of view. They just tone down their ideas publicly since openly following the Nazi ideology would make them illegal in Germany.
Germany has learned the hard way that being a Democracy is no guarantee of staying a free, democratic society. The German constitution, written after WW2, therefore includes mechanisms to make political parties illegal if they stand against the democratic system in the country.
So far this has happened only two times in Germany:
In 1952 the SRP, a party that saw itself as a successor to Hitler's NSDAP and its ideology was declared illegal and four years later, in 1956, the same happened to the KPD, Germany's communist party.
Since that time extremist parties from all sides of the polical spectrum have learned to tone down their public positions to avoid having the same fate.
The NPD tries to present itself as a normal, patriotic party that in its campaign normally says:
Germany to us Germans!
They have little to no chances to get into the parliament, during the last election 5 years ago they received 2,1% of votes (5% is the minimum to get into any German parliament) and this time they will very likely get even less votes.
They constantly test out the limits on far they can go and how much they can provoke.
During the last elections they hung these elections posters everywhere around the Holocaust Memorial:
'Gas geben!' in German means to accelerate (to give gasoline to the engine), underlined by a picture of the party leader on a motorcycle. But of course it was a reference to the gas chambers of the Holocaust and caused quite an uproar back then.
This time they haven't hung any posters at the memorial, but they still have a lot of their posters close by at the area where Hitler's bunker and chancellory had stood at the end of the war.
The bunker is completely gone, where it used to be is the parking lot you see in the background.
The poster says: Our home – our task!
Below you see a picture of Berlin's mayor running for office again.
Notice btw. how the NPD posters are always hanging the highest so it is harder to take them down.
Of course other parties react to those posters in their own way.
The clearest reaction can be seen by the party called 'Die Linke', which literally means 'The Left'.
Die Linke used to be East-Germany's ruling socialist party which still exists under a different name since they officially abandoned the goal of establishing a non-democratic society.
In the political spectrum they are (almost) as far away from the NPD as possible and define themselves as being an anti-fascist-party.
Their poster says: Berlin welcome-culture shows a picture of Anti-Nazi protests holding a poster of a fist crushing the Swastika of the Nazis.
The NPD is facing a lot of problems at the moment.
First of all the party seems to be almost bankrupt. Legal problems, lack of donations and not too many members mean that the party is struggling to financially survive. Many of the posters hanging in Berlin are re-used from earlier elections in other parts of Germany and the party had to fire quite a lot of its personnel not too long ago.
The other problem they are facing right now is that the NPD might soon become the third party in Germanys's history to be declared illegal! A legal process has been initiated at the end of 2012 and is right now in its final stages. The process is quite complicated and it is not clear whether it will be succesful or not. But independent of the result it has kept the party quite occupied.
The main reason though why the party is expected to receive less votes than during the last elections is quite simply the fact that this time they have a strong competition about votes from the right-wing spectrum in Germany.
The last years have seen the rise of a new right-wing conservative party, the AFD – Alternative für Deutschland (alternative for Germany).
While I personally would not define that party as a Neonazi-Party, they are definitely fishing for the same kind of votes among right-wing extremists in Germany.
The AFD is currently standing at 14% in the polls and will definitely enter the parliament.
But more about this and other parties at another time.