Night. Dogs. Not Barking.

It’s still not certain who will lead the government in Germany’s northernmost state of Schleswig-Holstein. Neither the Social Democrat-Green coalition nor the Christian Democrat-Free Democrat coalition won a majority of seats in the election this past Sunday, and talks on all manner of variants are continuing.

What’s certain is that the far-right NPD — which had attracted international attention with electoral gains in the state of Saxony, with a demonstrative desertion of the legislative chambers when the Saxon government commemorated the liberation of Auschwitz, and with backing a protest in Dresden on the anniversary of the city’s destruction in a firebomb raid — is nowhere to be seen. Not present in the legislature. Not playing any role whatsoever in the state.

Watch for a similar non-event after elections in North Rhine-Westfalia, Germany’s most populous state, on May 22 of this year.

This entry was posted in A Fistful Of Euros, Germany and tagged , by Doug Merrill. Bookmark the permalink.

About Doug Merrill

Freelance journalist based in Tbilisi, following stints in Atlanta, Budapest, Munich, Warsaw and Washington. Worked for a German think tank, discovered it was incompatible with repaying US student loans. Spent two years in financial markets. Bicycled from Vilnius to Tallinn. Climbed highest mountains in two Alpine countries (the easy ones, though). American center-left, with strong yellow dog tendencies. Arrived in the Caucasus two weeks before its latest war.

14 thoughts on “Night. Dogs. Not Barking.

  1. But the CDU is making up for the lack of the NPD: insulting the Danes and calling their constitutional right to influence who gets to govern in question. (Roland Koch is the worst at it, as usual.)

  2. But the CDU is making up for the lack of the NPD: insulting the Danes and calling their constitutional right to influence who gets to govern in question. (Roland Koch is the worst at it, as usual.)

  3. Not surprising on any of those counts. One of the ways that the extreme right is kept out of state legislatures is that the center-right takes up some of their positions, minus the most egregious bits and the occasional positive references to You Know Who. This is what happened to the Republicans in the late 1980s and early 1990s, especially in Bavaria. Rep immigration policy became CSU immigration policy. See also Hamburg in the last few years: Schill’s policy on crime became Ole’s policy on crime. Exuent Schill-Party.

    Based on that, we should probably expect more references to Germany’s “normality” in international relations, if not its history (a project that both Schroeder’s SPD and Fischer’s Greens will go along with). I’m not sure what else the NPD has been favoring that could be stolen, but that’s mostly because I can’t really stand to look too closely at what the NPD is up to.

  4. Obvious candidates: protectionism, antieuropeism, various forms of populist economics. The CDU cannot follow that to a large extent. On the contrary it is moving to more free market positions and elections are won in the center.
    You can see that the CSU is trying. In my personal oppinion in the long run they’ll fail.

  5. Well, if all else fails, the CSU can still play the Bavarian regionalist card, though that?s more about style than substance.

    The CDU is indeed moving toward “free market” positions, but that doesn?t exclude proposing a hardline policy on immigration or the EU. And appeals to conservative voters do not necessarily imply any real action on these issues after the election. See Roland Koch, for example.

    Not that the SPD can?t “talk the talk”, but the “pro-immigration” or “pro-European” Greens get much more vocal than the FDP.

    The NPD, well, I suspect they won?t get much support outside the East unless the economic situation gets really bad(tm). The western electorates? support for the “established” paries is comparatively strong, and support for democratic government is almost universal.

    Whether the genie can be put back into the bottle in Saxony etc. is another question.

  6. At the federal level and in the western states the NPD or other radical parties have little chance for the next ten years or so. Provided that the economy doesn’t tank. But beyond that things look differently.
    Firstly a party with federal ambitions and a good base in some states is unlikely to vanish. The mechanism is comparable to the rise of the Green Party.
    Secondly, the CDU can’t really go much to the right in that regard. A hardcore antieuropean leaning is impossible due to the Kohlist wing and would really hurt the country when the CDU will govern again. The CSU might, but it would have to give up territorial restraint which would hurt it.
    Thirdly things cannot remain how they are. The level of spending combined with present demographics is unsupportable. That very much hurts all parties’ integrative power. There’s no more money to paper over differences. That means that the relative losers will feel the pinch and organise.

  7. The problem with the above excuses for the Union is that while NPD & co can should what they like, even should they get 30%, they’ll won’t get anything into legislation – but the CDU/CSU (and to a lesser extent the SPD) will.

    So even if the CDU ‘only’ (and that’s not a small only) moves as far to the right as louder xenophobia and talk of Leitkultur (and killing citizenship reform), it does much more damage than the ‘true’ far-right parties can do. And that on multiple levels.

    Beyond the laws themselves, by trying to confront the far-right with adopting far-right rhetoric, rather than combatting it with arguments, the Union parties allow the spread of some brown thought into wider sections of the population.

    Also, the CDU’s long denial that Germany is an immigration country – a country where the son of immigrants speaking German, thinking German and born in Germany may get citizenship at 14, while Russian-speaking, Russian-thinking and Russian-drinking people of German descent get it instantly (I witnessed this absurdity while there in the Kohl era) – meant little or no policies for integration, which led to the ghettoisation of people from more distant cultures. Which in turn was used (back then when I was there) by even CDU/CSU types to claim immigrants don’t want to integrate, hence no such policy is needed…

  8. Much agreed DoDo. When German audiences ask me how the American people can let GWB&co tell them such obvious lies, I often say, “Germany is not a country of immigration.” Lightbulbs tend to go on.

  9. Doug, as a sidenote, in the nineties I used to defend Germany towards Americans (on-line) who from media reports of some atrocities concluded there is a chronic problem of racism that is special to Germany: I pointed out that the percentage of far-right by various measures is actually less than in most other countries. (Within the EU, my native Central-Eastern Europe may be worst, where what features as the ‘Left’ is already like or worse than the CDU – while our far right even scared the shit out of the leader of Vlaams Block…)

    However, back to the denials of the CDU as I knew it, that doesn’t mean they can be dismissed – for a foreigner, even just 5% xenophobes means you meet a few every single day – and chances are you don’t know in advance who it will be.

  10. I should suppose that I should make clear I am by no means condoning CDU uptake of far-right themes. Just wearing my political scientist hat and describing what appears to have happened several times in postwar German democracy.

    As a foreigner living in Germany, I noticed a palpable relaxation once red-green came in at the national level. The realization that Germany actually had to compete for the best talent in the world, that foreigners were an enrichment for the country, and that non-natives brought many assets with them was very important for the country. Having these ideas proclaimed at the very top political level meant that there were positive effects all the way down. Up to and including having the “Kinder statt Inder” campaign laughed out of national discourse. The CDU is often threatening to make immigration a major campaign issue. Some days I wish they would and that the would get thoroughly beaten on it, so that even the threat would disappear.

    As for xenophobia in ECE, I’m less informed than I ought to be. And as an American, I’m almost always regarded as a “good” foreigner, i.e., not likely to be a burden on the local welfare system. That and being able to speak a modicum of the language most everywhere I’ve been have made for mostly pleasant receptions. But lots of societies in ECE are even more monochromatic than Germany, even more inward-looking, and this can easily lead to the ignorance that’s the basis of a lot of casual racism. (The racism bred of daily contact, I think, is different; the former is your Oregon sort of racism, the latter your Mississippi sort.)

  11. as an American, I’m almost always regarded as a “good” foreigner, i.e., not likely to be a burden on the local welfare system.

    Well, having pale skin, with strangers, my own bad experiences lasted only as long as I was recognisably alien due to my clothes and lack of language skills. (After blending in, only a few loons and a teacher at school.) Pretty typical for racist ignorance, they usually assumed I’m a Turk.

    But lots of societies in ECE are even more monochromatic than Germany, even more inward-looking, and this can easily lead to the ignorance that’s the basis of a lot of casual racism.

    It’s not that simple. For a start, immigrants aren’t the prime target like in Western Europe. While anti-semitism is more wide-spread here, especially in Poland (France? forget it, that’s Likud propaganda), most of ECE racism is directed at a quite large and visible minority: Gypsies.

    Other strong xenophobia is connected to historical neighbour hates. (Various US and a few West European policymakers would do good to study these before so enthusiastically advocating border changes, be it in what was Yugoslavia, Kurdistan or elsewhere.)

    One anecdote for illustration: once during a heated Parliamentary debate in the early ninetie heres, an older right-wing MP scolded a young liberal for his irreverent style, saying this tone doesn’t belong to this place, it belongs to – Bucharest…

  12. The CDU is often threatening to make immigration a major campaign issue. Some days I wish they would and that the would get thoroughly beaten on it, so that even the threat would disappear.

    Be careful what you wish for. Over here in the UK the Tories have done exactly that and it looks like they are at least for the time being quite successful with it. While general opinion is that they still won’t win the election they certainly have Labour on its toes and Labour is rapidly catching up with strong anti-immigration policies and the like.

  13. There’s sort of a shadow-boxing going on with the issue right now with the CDU and FAZ trying to lead a significant campaign against Foreign Minister Fischer for having been slightly careless with easing visa restrictions in various parts of Eastern Europe. (This is the second time they’ve made a coordinated effort to discredit Fischer; the first was shortly after he too office, and the sexed-up issue was “revelations” about his protesting past.) The standard tropes were there: immigrants tied to crime, to poverty, to deviousness in general. Fischer’s reply admitted a few procedural mistakes, but he has come out swinging in favor of openness. It’ll be interesting to see where this goes.

  14. Der Spiegel is on him, too. This time his timing was bad. Probably political survival, but lasting damage. Optimal result for the opposition.

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