Here’s what’s been happening in Germany in the last few weeks and it looks like the political fun and games have begun in Bavaria:
The biggest party in Bavaria, the Christian Social Union (CSU), have signed a coalition agreement to form the state government with the Freie Wähler (FW – Free Voters). This occurred shortly before the opening of the Bavarian Landtag (state parliament) on Monday 5th November. The speed of the agreement is unsurprising as the FW, the CSU and the AfD (Alternative für Deutschland) share similar positions on various topics such as immigration and asylum policy. Naturally, all the establishment parties have refused to cooperate with the AfD, because they are a threat to the legacy parties, just as UKIP is in the UK.
It has been announced that three of the Mitglied der Landtag (MdL – similar to MSP) from the AfD have been placed under surveillance by the Bavarian state’s Verfassungsschutz (security services for Constitutional Protection – akin to MI5). Among them is Uli Henkel, who was interviewed by Katie Hopkins in the days leading up to the election. The information about the surveillance was exposed during Uli Henkel’s candidature as the AfD’s nomination for Vice President (VP akin to Deputy Speaker) in the Landtag. For more about Uli Henkel, you can watch Katie Hopkins’ interview with him here.
The background is that each party has the opportunity to nominate a candidate for VP. There is a pecking order according to the number of MdL each party has, and smaller parties have been allocated their VP. As expected, the other parties have ganged up to prevent Uli Henkel’s nomination progressing. A similar game was successfully played in the Bundestag (national parliament) in Berlin last year, so these political manoeuvrings should come as no surprise.
The AfD have come out and condemned the surveillance and the games associated with the VP nomination in the Landtag.
On the national level, AfD Bundestag co-leader Alice Weidel MdB called for a referendum on the German exit from the EU (Dexit) last week. The party has taken an ever more eurosceptic position since their inception as a party opposed to the Euro and the attempts to rescue the currency from collapse. She has spoken positively in the Bundestag in favour of common sense and fair Brexit negotiations with the UK. Video of a speech in the Bundestag with English subtitles, see e.g. here.
The next focus for the AfD are the European elections in May 2019 and their (only) current MEP and national spokesman Jörg Meuthen is a key figure in that fight. The question as to whether the electorate wants to give the establishment a poke in the eye, will most likely be answered in this election. Most Germans are very pro-EU, but the additional €11 billion that the German taxpayer is being required to stump up after the UK leaves may change some minds.
Additionally, as one would expect, the party have taken an opposition stance on the Global Compact on Migration.
As a side issue: Hans-Georg Maassen, the former head of the national Verfassungsschutz and the subject of much furore when he spoke out against establishment politicians on fake news of ‘far-right’ involvement the protests in Chemnitz, has been forced into retirement. This was, apparently, his suggestion to defuse the situation. However, he has mentioned in various utterings that he may switch to industry or politics. YouTuber Oliver Flesch, a former Bild newspaper reporter, has agreed with a conspiracy theory in a video he posted on 5 November that there is only one party that he realistically could join, because they supported him throughout the whole affair – the AfD. There was another ‘scandal’ contrived by the opposition parties, whereby it was revealed that he advised the AfD hierarchy how to avoid being placed under observation by the Verfassungschutz. One of the key arguments made is that the AfD is un- or anti- constitutional. So this conspiracy theory is not without merit, and worth monitoring.
Angela Merkel’s ‘resignation’ is something that the AfD have taken much credit for. It is, however, a smoke and mirrors exercise, for the moment. She has stated in the past that the position of Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party leader and Chancellor belong together, and has announced that she will not be a candidate for the party leader elections in December. However, she intends to remain as Chancellor in order for her successor to build up a name and profile in time for the next election in 2021. The three current potential successors are, in the main, offering “more of the same”.
- Friedrich Merz, who Angela Merkel vanquished to become party leader in 2002, disappeared into industry after stepping down as MP in 2009 and is making a political comeback.
- Jens Spahn, currently Health Minister, is an ‘AfD-lite’ candidate and the only politically different candidate.
- Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer the party’s current General Secretary. Known mainly for causing controversy in the past for statements on same-sex marriage; which may rub Jens Spahn’s supporters up the wrong way.
Ed: we’re grateful for this report from inside Germany – it is important for us to keep an eye on one of the major players in the EU. What happens in Germany will influence Brexit – just as what happens in France will. Any reports from inside France would be very welcome!