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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Vijeta Uniyal : Germany: The Progressives' Post-Election Meltdown

  • On election night, around 400 leftist agitators gathered outside the Cologne's central railway station, chanting, "Whoever is silent, is complicit."
  • The irony of this moment should not be overlooked. The German left was not only silent when thousands of migrant men raped and sexually assaulted 1,200 women on New Year's Eve of 2016, but also, during the weeks that followed, when they tried to bully the female victims into silence by calling them racists and liars for daring to identifying their attackers as migrants.
  • With the AfD in the Bundestag, the country's political landscape finally reflects the actual political mood of the country. It is a view that has been completely missing since Germany's self-inflicted migrant crisis began two years ago.
The German voters certainly spoke in last month's general election, but the establishment in Berlin is having a difficult time coming to terms with what they said.

The right-wing Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), winning 12.6 percent of the vote, became the third-largest party in the German parliament by securing 94 of the 700-odd Bundestag seats. In states that used to be East Germany, the AfD got 20.5% of the vote, second after Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU).

The election result was not only a big breakthrough for the AfD -- created just four years ago -- but also a historic debacle for the two major parties that have dominated the country's post-war political landscape for almost seven decades.
Chancellor Merkel's conservative CDU, with 33% of the vote, suffered its worst election result since 1949, and so did the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the world's oldest Socialist party, with 20.5% of the vote.

News of the AfD's strong electoral showing triggered far-left protests across Germany. On election night, the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported:
"The crowd [in Berlin] was continuing to grow outside the building where the AfD were celebrating their historic election result. Protestors chanted slogans such as, 'Racism is not an alternative,' 'AfD is a bunch of racists,' and 'Nazis out!'"

Far-leftists protest the election gains of the Alternative für Deutschland party (AfD), in Berlin, on September 24, 2017. (Photo by Jens Schlueter/Getty Images)

Also on election night, around 400 leftist agitators gathered outside the Cologne's central railway station, chanting, "Whoever is silent, is complicit."
The irony of this moment should not be overlooked. The German left was not only silent when thousands of migrant men raped and sexually assaulted 1,200 women on New Year's Eve of 2016 on that very place, but also, during the weeks that followed, when they tried to bully the female victims into silence by calling them racists and liars for daring to identifying their attackers as migrants.

Germany's political establishment and mainstream media also went into bouts of grief and anger. They refused to accept the electoral verdict and appeared furious at the voters' rebuff. "What the hell is wrong with the East Germans?," asked the German business newspaper Handelsblatt, adding that "Many Germans are emotional and angry about this outcome."

Shortly after the announcement of the election result, the German weekly Die Zeit launched a social media campaign encouraging its two million Twitter followers to tweet anti-AfD messages using the hashtag #87Prozent ("87 percent") -- thereby highlighting that the majority of the country's electorate did not vote for the right-wing party.

"How could the AfD gain ground? Could this have been prevented? And whose fault is it?" inquired the weekly newspaper Der Freitag in its headline.

If the "Antifa" agitators and the media were having tough time coming to terms with the democratic verdict, the established German parties across the political spectrum were busy trying to disenfranchise the elected representatives of the newcomer, AfD.

As the news of the AfD's entry into the parliament began to make rounds, an all-party campaign to block the AfD from chairing parliamentary committees in Bundestag kicked into action.

Chairs of the parliamentary committees are allocated to the parties on the basis of their legislative strength. As the third largest group in the Bundestag, the AfD will be eligible to head some of these committees.

The Social Democratic Party's senior politician, Michelle Müntefering, launched a signature campaign to prevent the AfD from heading the Bundestag's culture and media committee. "A "far-right party" should not be allowed to inject its "nationalist venom" at sensitive positions of the parliamentary system," quoted Der Spiegel, citing Müntefering's campaign letter. Prominent figures from politics, journalism, arts and culture had signed the letter, which claimed that an AfD member at the helm of the committee would imperil the country's "free and diverse cultural and media landscape".

That seems a strange claim, considering that those who signed the letter were part of the very media establishment that systematically blocked the AfD from the media's "diverse" landscape. 
In the first quarter of 2017, for example, "only four AfD representatives had been invited to appear on Germany's four biggest political talk shows [out of 162 politicians] on the public broadcasters ARD and ZDF," the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle confirmed.

The AfD holds the prevalent political culture in the country responsible for the hysteric reaction to its electoral success. Petr Bystron, chief of the AfD's Bavaria state unit, told Gatestone Institute:
"[Attempts to] discredit the AfD and the protests on the election night are a testament to the skewed understanding of democracy, lack of respect towards the voters and towards differing opinions,"
It is also intriguing to see how the so-called liberal elite on both sides of the Atlantic think they can overturn electoral verdicts through meaningless signature campaigns or pompous-sounding hashtags every time their side loses at the ballot box.

The fear of the AfD influencing the workings of the powerful parliamentary committees, however, is a real one. Committees that can set up inquiries and expose the inner workings of the state apparatus are a serious nuisance for the ruling political class.

The AfD has made no secret of its intention of hauling Chancellor Merkel before a parliamentary committee to look into her decision to open the country's borders to hundreds and thousands of migrants in 2015.

What might not be good news for the political establishment, however, might be good for the German democracy. With the AfD in the Bundestag, the country's political landscape finally reflects the actual political mood of the country. It is a view that has been completely missing since Germany's self-inflicted migrant crisis began two years ago.
Vijeta Uniyal, a journalist and news analyst, is based in Germany.

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