Posts Tagged ‘anti-migrant’

Is Germany’s Extreme-Right AfD Falling Apart? Or Beaten Into Submission?

January 11, 2019

The far-right Alternative for Germany may be unravelling at the edges after a disgruntled member struck off on his own. That’s bad news for the populists ahead of key elections, says DW political analyst Jefferson Chase.

Shattered glass in front of AfD office

There is now even more right-wing alternative to the Alternative for Germany (AfD).

On Thursday, the former party leader in the eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt, Andre Poggenburg, resigned his party membership. Only hours later, the far-right hardliner announced that he is forming a party of his own, the “Aufbruch deutscher Patrioten” (Uprising of German Patriots), to compete with the AfD.

Poggenburg was one of the more extreme nationalist and xenophobic leaders within the AfD, which twice censured him for using language reminiscent of right-wing extremism. He has close ties to the radical Identitarian and Pegida movements. And for much of his career he was also an ally of Thuringian AfD leader Björn Höcke, who is regarded as one of the main motors behind the AfD’s ethnic-nationalist hardline wing and who has often been accused of anti-Semitism.

In 2016, Poggenburg became the leader of the opposition in the Saxony-Anhalt regional parliament, but stepped down last year from that position and as regional party leader following controversial anti-Turkish remarks. The emblem of Poggenburg’s new party, a blue cornflower, has been criticized for having right-wing extremist and Nazi connotations.

Reaction to Poggenburg’s defection among AfD members has been mixed. Some hardliners have rued his departure, while members of the relatively moderate Alternative Mitte group have welcomed it. Regional parliamentarian Uwe Junge, for instance, tweeted: “Andre Poggenburg is leaving the AfD! Finally. I hope he takes all the extremist fools and self-proclaimed patriots with him.”

Uwe Junge, MdL


André Poggenburg verläßt die AfD!
Endlich – ich hoffe, er nimmt den ganzen Narrensaum und die selbst ernannten Patrioten mit! , !  via @junge_freiheit

André Poggenburg verläßt die AfD

Der frühere AfD-Landes- und Fraktionschef von Sachsen-Anhalt, André Poggenburg, ist aus der Partei ausgetreten. Am Donnerstag abend erklärte er in einer E-Mail an die AfD-Bundesgeschäftsstelle den…

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A limit to the AFD’s move right?

The 43-year-old may not have been universally liked within the AfD, but party leaders have to be concerned that Poggenburg’s supporters could follow him and defect — a scenario that has some precedent.

The Alternative for Germany was founded in 2013 primarily in opposition to European monetary union. But a lack of electoral success shifted the focus to hostility toward mass migration. Co-founder Bernd Lucke was replaced by the far more conservative Frauke Petry as party head in 2015.

That shift roughly coincided with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision not to close Germany’s borders as large numbers of refugees and migrants began arriving from Syria, Northern Africa, Afghanistan and other places. That brought a surge of support for the AfD from Germans who feared that large-scale migration would threaten their way of life and the country’s traditions.

A protest organized by the AfD, and the Pegida and “Pro Chemnitz” movements | John MacDougall/AFP via Getty Images

Since 2015, the AfD has moved further and further to the nationalist, some might say racist right, guided by such figures as current party co-leader Alexander Gauland, Höcke and Poggenburg. That evolution has come to the dismay of more moderate AfD members, including Petry, who became increasingly marginalized in the run-up to the 2017 German federal election.

Related image

Frauke Petry

The party recorded an impressive 12.6 percent of the national vote and eventually became the main opposition party in the Bundestag. The triumph prompted Gauland to promise to “hound” Merkel and Germany’s traditional political parties.

But the day after the vote, Petry and her supporters quit the AfD. That meant the parliamentary group immediately lost three seats. Petry subsequently formed the Blue Party, but it has yet to contest any elections and has attracted very few members.

Potential damage in eastern elections

The schism with Poggenburg and his supporters could be far more damaging than the split with the Petry. For starters, this is the first time that a rival group has formed to the right of the AfD. And it comes as the party had hoped to kick start its stalled momentum with three regional elections in its stronghold of eastern Germany: Saxony and Brandenburg on September 1 and Thuringia on October 27.

After becoming Germany’s third-largest party at national level in 2017, the AfD failed to dramatically increase its support in regional elections in 2018. The populists came in a distant third with just over 10 percent of the vote in Bavaria and fourth in Hesse with slightly more than 13 percent.

The AfD continues to attract some 13.5 percent support in opinion polls, but the far-right populists have been outstripped by the Greens who have been polling 18 to 20 percent.

The AfD does attract 20 to 25 percent support in the east, but splits like those with Petry and Poggenburg could see erosion on both ends of the AfD’s spectrum of voters. Petry, who is from Saxony and won her constituency outright there in 2017, could siphon off moderates. Poggenburg, who was also born and bred in the formerly Communist east, could take away some hardline far-right and extremist voters.

Many mainstream political analysts have predicted, perhaps with an admixture of wishful thinking, that the tug-of-war between relative moderates and hardliners could rip the AfD apart at the seams. That remains a very hypothetical scenario — at the time of writing, Poggenburg’s new party has a grand total of ten Twitter followers.

But arguably more than any other German party, the AfD’s appeal relies on the perception that it represents a popular movement that is inexorably growing in strength. The latest discord undercuts the idea of the AfD as a truly viable alternative.


Damaged AfD office in Döbeln following explosion (picture-alliance/dpa/S. Willnow)

Police authorities said “an unknown substance was detonated” on Thursday at around 7:20 p.m. local time (620 UTC) in front of the building that houses the offices of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the Saxon city of Döbeln.

Doors and windows of the building hou


Hungary’s Viktor Orban pushes for anti-migrant bloc to counter France and Germany

January 10, 2019

Hungary’s Viktor Orban hopes a right-wing alliance can help gain an anti-migrant majority in the European Parliament. The alliance was pitched by Italy’s Matteo Salvini, who Orban described as a “hero.”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (picture-alliance/Anadolu Agency/D. Aydemir)

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Thursday pledged his full support for an Italian-Polish initiative to form a right-wing alliance for European Parliament elections due in May.

Orban said Hungary’s goal was to gain an anti-immigrant majority in the European Parliament that he hoped would spread to the European Commission, and later, as national elections change the EU’s political landscape.

Read more: Is Viktor Orban the EU’s hard-line hero or villain?

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said during a visit to Warsaw on Wednesday that Italy and Poland should join forces in a eurosceptic alliance, expressing hopes that an “Italian-Polish axis” would replace the current “French-German axis.”

“The Polish-Italian or Warsaw-Rome alliance is one of the greatest developments that this year could have started with,” Orban said, describing Salvini as a “hero” for stopping migration on Italy’s shores.

‘I must fight’ Macron

Orban spoke out against French President Emmanuel Macron, whom Orban described as the leader of pro-immigration policies in Europe.

“It is nothing personal, but a matter of our countries’ future,” Orban said of Macron. “If what he wants with regards to migration materializes in Europe, that would be bad for Hungary, therefore I must fight him.”

Read more: How the EU’s resettlement plan is failing to meet its goal

Orban also said he could not see any chance for a compromise with Germany. He said German politicians and media attack him and put excessive pressure on him to admit migrants.

He predicted that there would be two civilizations in Europe: One “that builds its future on a mixed Islamic and Christian coexistence” and another in Central Europe that would be only Christian.

Orban won a third consecutive term in April, following a campaign that focused on anti-immigration policies, as the continent’s voters increasingly respond to populist agendas.

Poland wary of Salvini

While Salvini on Wednesday said he and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Poland’s ruling party leader, agreed on most issues, Polish officials appeared to have some reservations at the prospect of forming an alliance with Salvini, who is seen in Poland as too friendly to Russia.

Polen Matteo Salvini bei Joachim Brudzinski (Imago/Forum/M. Dyjuk)

Salvini with Poland’s Joachim Brudzinski

Polish lawmaker Witold Waszczykowski, a former foreign minister, said “the only arrangements that have been made concern further meetings and further consultations, but there are no arrangements for a deal, a creation in advance of alliances or common clubs in the European Parliament.”

Read more: Visegrad represents Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians and Poles

A leading commentator for the Rzeczpospolita daily newspaper, Michal Szuldrzynski, said he believed Salvini heard more about what divides Italy’s League and Poland’s Law and Justice party than what unites them during his visit.

“Kaczynski showed that he doesn’t want to be a part of a euroskeptic alliance under the patronage of the Kremlin,” Szuldrzynski wrote in Thursday’s paper.

law/sms (AP, Reuters)


Germany: The gap between east and west is narrowing, but not fast enough

September 26, 2018

Almost thirty years after German reunification, the eastern states continue to play economic catch-up with the west. Lawmakers warn this convergence is happening too slowly, and locals are feeling the strain.

Spielort EM 2024 - Leipzig am Abend (picture-alliance/dpa/J. Woitas)

The economic gap between Germany’s former Soviet eastern states and their neighbors to the west continues to narrow, but at a rate that is hardly noticeable.

The annual Unity Report, (Jahresbericht zum Stand der deutschen Einheit) presented to the federal government on Wednesday, found that the east German states’ economic power is “only very slowly” catching up to the levels enjoyed in the more export-oriented states in the west.

In 2017, gross domestic product per inhabitant in the east was 73.2 percent of that in the west, roughly the same level as the previous year.

Over the last decade, the gap has only decreased by 4.2 percentage points, according to government data.

Christian Hirte, the federal government’s commissioner for the five former communist states, said that these differences were still prevalent in everyday eastern German life.

“Despite all the successes, we still see a high degree of dissatisfaction and skepticism,” Hirte said. “We must take this seriously. The federal government must create opportunities in the east, particularly given attitudes towards the establishment and public authorities, or the structural changes we’re seeing in coal mining areas.”

Rural regions increasingly left behind

The report also highlighted that rural regions in eastern Germany continued to be threatened by mass emigration, albeit to the expanding nearby cities, rather than westwards.

“The effects of this development can already be clearly felt when it comes to the development of technical and social infrastructure,” the report noted.

Living conditions were increasingly unequal between the “prospering regions, such as Berlin and its environs — Leipzig, Dresden and Erfurt — and the structurally weak areas of emigration.” Migration to the cities “leads to a further thinning out of rural and above all peripheral regions”.

The growth of eastern cities, however, does reflect positive trends in the labor market. Ten years ago, employment rates in the east were 10 percent lower than in the west; today that difference is just 2.3 percent.

Read more: The dying rural communities in eastern Germany

Women are also more represented in the workplace, accounting for just under 50 percent of all workers. Reconciling professional and family life appears to be easier in the east than in the west, according to the report’s authors.

Demographic decline

Following unification in 1990, eastern Germany saw a large fall in the birthrate and an exodus of young, well-qualified people.

According to the report, the region continues to suffer from this demographic decline. Currently 59 percent of the population is of working age (between 20 and 64) while a quarter are old enough to retire (65 years and older).

By 2030, the economy ministry estimates that only 52 percent of the population will be working and 32 percent will have retired.

While western Germany is experiencing similar demographic patterns, the process is far less pronounced.

Read more: East Germany: It’s not just the economy, stupid!

Prone to right-wing crimes

Although only 20 percent of the overall population live in eastern Germany the region still accounts for more than 50 percent of all right-wing hate crimes. A total of 1,054 offenses were registered, 572 of which were committed in eastern Germany.

Earlier this month, extremist protests erupted in the eastern city of Chemnitz over the stabbing of a German national, allegedly by two migrants. The city of Dresden is also the birthplace of the far-right PEGIDA movement, which regularly organizes anti-migrant and anti-foreigner marches across German cities.

Hungary’s Orban, champion of Europe’s ‘illiberal forces’, condemns EU ‘blackmail’

September 11, 2018

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Tuesday vowed to defy EU pressure to soften his hardline anti-migrant stance, condemning what he called the “blackmail” of his country.

“Whatever your decision will be, Hungary will not accede to this blackmail. Hungary will protect its borders, stop illegal migration and defend its rights,” Orban told the European Parliament, which is deciding whether to start steps that could lead to political sanctions against Hungary.

© Frederick Florin, AFP | Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivers a speech at the European Parliament on September 11 in Strasbourg.

With his fierce rhetoric and anti-immigration measures, Orban, 55, has alarmed critics at home and in Europe while bolstering his populist domestic support and attracting far-right fans internationally.

European Parliament vote is expected Wednesday on a report that said Hungary is at risk of a “breach” of basic EU values.

If the vote backs the report’s findings, the “nuclear option” of Article 7 will be triggered, a procedure that could lead to the suspension of Hungary’s voting rights on EU legislation.

The report, written by Dutch MEP Judith Sargentini, lays out a lengthy list of concerns about Orban’s government since it came into power in 2010, including democratic backsliding, ill treatment of asylum-seekers, undermining NGOs and widespread corruption.

>> Can the EU halt the Eastern slide toward authoritarianism?

According to Hungarian officials, however, Sargentini’s report is “riddled with factual errors, lies and half-truths”.

“This report does not give respect to the Hungarian nation,” Orban told the lawmakers. “You think you know better than the Hungarian people what the Hungarian people need.”

Orban said that political sanctions being considered against Hungary would be the first time in the EU that “a community condemns its own border guards”.

“I reject that the European Parliament’s forces supporting immigration and migrants threaten, blackmail and with untrue accusations defame Hungary and the Hungarian people,” he said during a feisty speech.

Checks and balances

Elected with a powerful two-thirds majority in 2010, Orban unleashed a legislative whirlwind that included restrictions on the constitutional court’s powers and an overhaul of public media.

The report said that the reforms increased government influence over judges and weakened the judicial system’s ability to keep a rein on government power.

State television and news agencies have become government propaganda organs, while large portions of the private media sector have been bought up by pro-Orban oligarchs.

Most media in Hungary now follow the government line and focus on anti-migrant content while corruption scandals are reported by a dwindling number of online outlets.

Sargentini’s report expresses concern over the press reports of widespread corruption, such as conflicts of interest, inaccurate asset declarations by politicians, and public contracts – including funds from the EU – routinely awarded to Fidesz party cronies who charge inflated prices.

‘Rigged’ elections

The report says the changes to electoral laws since 2010 have also rigged the system in favour of Orban’s right-wing Fidesz.

It cites international bodies like the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which said that “excessive” government spending on advertising and the dominance of pro-Orban media created an “adverse climate” before the last election in April.

Around half of the electorate voted for Fidesz in April, handing Orban his third consecutive landslide win and a two-thirds super-majority.

The government hailed the result as a fresh mandate to carry out anti-immigration policies that Orban says reflect the “will of the people”.


Orban’s hard line on Europe’s migrant crisis, excoriating German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “open door” policy and refusing to take migrants from elsewhere in the EU, has gained him admiration from nationalists and nativists abroad.

In 2015 his government erected razor-wire border fences and enabled police to physically “push back” migrants across the border into Serbia.

>> Read more: Orban and Salvini unite against Macron in anti-migrant push

Rights groups cited by the Sargentini report say Orban’s treatment of migrants and asylum-seekers falls well short of minimum international standards.

Budapest is also accused of not doing enough to stop – and in some cases facilitating – discrimination against Roma, Muslims and Jews, says Sargentini.

Stop Soros

With the number of migrants slowing to a trickle, in recent years Orban has blamed George Soros, the Hungarian-born financier, for plotting to flood Hungary and Europe with immigrants.

But taxpayer-funded billboards erected nationwide and government leaflets sent to households warning Hungarians about Soros contained “factually incorrect or highly misleading” claims and “induced hatred” against migrants, says Sargentini.

A “Stop Soros” legal package passed in June targets human rights groups that Orban accuses of being a front for migration and includes a special tax on NGO activities and even potential jail terms for staff deemed to be helping illegal migrants.

The clampdowns restrict the basic freedom of civil society and of individuals to voice criticism of the government’s policies, says the report.

Among other basic rights restricted by the government, according to the report, is the academic freedom of the Budapest-based Central European University founded by Soros.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)

Slovenia president to ask anti-migrant party to form coalition

June 22, 2018

Slovenian President Borut Pahor on Friday said he will ask the anti-migrant SDS party, which came out top in this month’s elections, to try and form a coalition government.

Image result for Borut Pahor, slovenia, photos

Borut Pahor, Slovenia’s president (Reuters/S. Zivulovic)

“I will entrust the party that won the most votes by far with forming a government,” Pahor told lawmakers at the opening of the new parliament.

During the June 3 elections, Janez Jansa’s centre-right Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) won 25 of the 90 seats in parliament, becoming the biggest single party in the assembly.

That was well ahead of the anti-establishment LMS of comedian-turned-politician Marjan Sarec which came second, winning 13 seats.

Shortly after the election, Jansa said his party would seek to form a coalition, inviting all parties to begin talks.

The 59-year-old, a veteran rightwinger who also served as prime minister between 2004-2008, has made few press appearances although he did so last weekend as he held private talks with Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

The Slovenian president said that if he thought anyone else could command majority support within parliament, he would recall the mandate from Jansa.

LMS has started unofficial talks on an alternative centre-left coalition, meeting with all party leaders except Jansa, with whom he has ruled out any collaboration.

So far, the only party openly prepared to join Jansa in coalition is the centre-right Nova Slovenija (NSi), with seven seats — giving them a total of 32, well short of the 46 needed for a majority.

In an attempt to win NSi support for a centre-left coalition and until a clear majority is reached, Sarec proposed NSi’s leader Matej Tonin as parliament’s speaker, a post traditionally occupied by the coalition party’s junior partner.

Tonin was appointed with the support of 80 out of the 89 lawmakers present at the session, including members of Jansa’s SDS.

Pahor said he would begin talks with party leaders next week as he seeks to meet a 30-day deadline for forming a new government.

The Slovenian press has mooted the possibility of a longer period of uncertainty, which could result in a return to the polls within months.



Anti-migrant leader claims victory in Italian election — Matteo Salvini says he’s not interested in “strange coalitions” but can’t govern alone

March 5, 2018

Image may contain: 1 person

The Associated Press

Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s anti-migrant euroskeptic League party, says the center-right coalition has won “the right and the duty to govern” Italy.

Salvini said Monday the result indicates a center-right coalition will lead the next government and that his party had would lead the center-right, after eclipsing coalition partner Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia in the vote.

The League jumped from 4 percent of the vote five years ago to nearly 18 percent in Sunday’s vote, ahead of Forza Italia, which had nearly 14 percent.

Salvini also indicated he was not interested in what he called “strange coalitions,” such as having the League join in a government with the populist 5-Star Movement.

Anti-fascist protesters rally against racism in Italy

February 11, 2018

Protesters have gathered to denounce racism after an Italian man opened fire on African migrants in Macerata. Immigration has become one of the most important political issues in the run-up to parliamentary elections.

Protesters rally against racism

Thousands of anti-fascist protesters on Saturday took to the streets to rally against racism in the eastern city of Macerata, where an Italian man earlier this month opened fire on African migrants, injuring six people.

Up to 30,000 demonstrators marched through the streets of Macerata carrying placards and shouting slogans against rising right-wing extremism. Protesters also gathered in Milan and other cities across Italy.

“We are here because we want to be a dam against this mountain of hate which is spreading continuously, a social hate against migrants and, in general, against the poor,” Francesco Piobbicchi, a protester, told Reuters news agency.

Read more: German-speaking Italy and the legacy of fascism

Tensions reached a fever-pitch on February 3, when Luca Traini, a 28-year-old who ran as a candidate for the far-right Northern League at local elections, went on a two-hour shooting spree targeting African migrants in Macerata.

Traini reportedly told police he was out to avenge the death of Pamela Mastropietro, an 18-year-old Italian woman who was found dead by police. Authorities arrested a suspected drug dealer with Nigerian origins for the murder of Mastropietro.

Police clash with Forza Nuova protestersEarlier this week, police clashed with New Force supporters in Macerata after the far-right supporters gave them a fascist salute during an unauthorized protest

‘Hate, terror and division’

Protesters also decried political parties’ attempts to use migration as a scapegoat for other issues in the run-up to parliamentary elections slated for March 4.

“If there’s unemployment, blame the government, not the migrants,” protesters chanted during the rally. “The political parties are using populism to create hate, terror and division,” said Valentina Guiliodora, who joined the demonstration.

Read more: Italy’s extreme right-wing on the rise

Italy has witnessed a resurgence of far-right activity, including growing support for neo-fascist party New Force (Forza Nuova), in tandem with a wave of migrants reaching Italian shores from North Africa over the past four years.

The Northern League party, which forms part of a right-of-center alliance expected to perform well during the elections, has campaigned on an anti-migrant platform. The far-right party’s leader Matteo Salvini said he was “ashamed as an Italian” for the anti-fascist march in Macerata.

Germany’s hard-right AfD is anti-immigration, will make life for Merkel tougher — Germany is being turned “into a caliphate”?

September 27, 2017


© AFP/File / by Frank ZELLER | The AfD is the first hard-right nationalist party to enter the German Bundestag in large numbers in the post-World War II era, an epochal event that stunned most Germans

BERLIN (AFP) – The Alternative for Germany (AfD) claims to be a force of “patriots” but some of its new lawmakers have shocked with xenophobic and revisionist comments and have been linked to far-right groups.The AfD is the first hard-right nationalist party to enter the German Bundestag in large numbers in the post-World War II era, an epochal event that stunned most Germans.

Since the party’s breakthrough in Sunday’s vote, the country has been scrutinising the biographies of the often little-known newcomers, elected on a platform of rejecting migrants, Muslims and Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Among them are police officers, prosecutors and judges, academics and business leaders, soldiers and scientists, a one-time radio host, an undertaker and a former fighter-pilot.

A disproportionate number are from Germany’s ex-communist and poorer east, where the AfD was the number one party for male voters and won outright in the state of Saxony.

The AfD rails against “traitor” Merkel as public enemy number one, for opening German borders to an “invasion” of more than one million migrants since 2015.

Some MPs have links to PEGIDA, short for Patriots Against the Islamisation of the Occident, a street movement that emerged in the Saxony state capital of Dresden.

Other lawmakers have reported links to shadowy fraternities, football hooligans, Russian ultra-nationalists and the nativist Identitarian Movement, which is being watched by the BfV domestic security service.

One has reportedly driven a car with “AH1818” on its number plates, the Tagesspiegel daily wrote — neo-Nazi code for Adolf Hitler’s initials, followed by the number of those letters in the alphabet, listed twice.

And Jens Maier, a judge in Dresden, has drawn fire for voicing a degree of understanding for Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, reportedly saying that he had acted “out of desperation” over multiculturalism when he killed 77 people in 2011.

– ‘Europe of fatherlands’ –

Still giddy from the election, which made the AfD Germany’s third strongest party, its 93 freshly-baked lawmakers gathered this week in a modernist concrete-and-steel annex building to the glass-domed Reichstag that is still pockmarked from Word War II battles.

Lawmaker number 94 stayed away — Frauke Petry, the former face of the AfD, had theatrically walked out of a party press conference the day before to protest against its bitter infighting and radicalisation.

Co-Leader Beatrix von Storch, picking up her new parliamentary ID card, said it was time for the party to “get to work”.

Asked whether the AfD, with slogans like “Bikinis not Burkas”, is far-right, she replied: “We want to cap refugee numbers, we are against Islamisation, we want to preserve our culture, we want to protect our borders.

“We are for the classic family unit, we don’t want a United States of Europe, but a Europe of fatherlands. I think these are perfectly normal topics.”

– ‘Guilt cult’ –

The MPs include at least 13 with ultra-right views, 30 “nationalist-conservatives”, and 18 comparative “moderates”, according to a count by Die Zeit weekly, which said the allegiances of others were unclear.

Among the new MPs is Leif-Erik Holm, 47, a former radio host who has claimed Germany is being turned “into a caliphate”, and who ran against Merkel in her Baltic Coast electorate .

Merkel lost a lot of votes, he said, but “beating her would have been the icing on the cake”.

Some members are veterans of the AfD’s founding days in 2013, when it railed mainly against eurozone bailouts to crisis-hit Greece.

Others call for tougher law and order, traditional “family values” and fighting against what they consider a left-leaning establishment spreading its lies via a complicit media.

On the far right, leaders have shocked with taboo-breaking comments that challenge Germany’s culture of atonement over World War II and the Holocaust.

One is co-leader Alexander Gauland, 75, a defector from Merkel’s conservative bloc, who has urged Germans to be proud of their veterans from two world wars.

Another, Martin Renner, has criticised Germany’s “guilt cult”.

Asked about the comment, he stuck by the phrase but added that he had only learnt later that it was commonly used by the far-right and anti-Semitic NPD party.

Dozens of members are close to regional party leader Bjoern Hoecke, who has demanded “a 180-degree turn” in Germany’s culture of remembrance and called Berlin’s Holocaust monument a “memorial of shame”.

by Frank ZELLER

Left-leaning Van der Bellen wins Austria’s presidential election — Far-right

December 4, 2016

AP and AFP

Image: Alexander Van der Bellen
Presidentianl candidate backed by the Greens Alexander Van der Bellen reacts during an election party after the second round of the Austrian President elections on May 22, 2016 in Vienna. ROLAND SCHLAGER / AFP – Getty Images

© Roland Schlager, APA/AFP | Independent candidate Alexander Van der Bellen leaves a poling booth after voting on December 4, 2016.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-12-04

Independent candidate Alexander Van der Bellen, a pro-EU leftist who preached moderation, has won Austria’s presidential election on Sunday over right-wing populist Norbert Hofer, preliminary results show.

A former leading member of the Green Party, Van der Bellen was the hope of Austrians who wanted to stop Hofer, a leader of the anti-migrant and anti-EU Freedom Party.

The results, released shortly after the polls closed Sunday, showed Van der Bellen with 53.5 percent of the vote to Hofer’s 46.4 percent. While the final result will not be official until absentee votes are counted on Monday, officials said the outstanding ballots would not change the outcome.

Austria’s presidency is a mostly ceremonial post, but Sunday’s election was being watched as a barometer of how populists in other European Union countries might fare in coming months, including France’s National Front leader Marine Le Pen, who is expected to vie for the presidency in 2017.

Sunday’s election was the re-run of a May vote that Van der Bellen won by less than 1 percentage point. A new vote had to be held following a court ruling that annulled the first election after Hofer’s Freedom Party claimed widespread irregularities.

In comments on Sunday, Van der Bellen noted the worldwide attention Austria’s election was receiving.

“What happens here today has relevance for all of Europe,” he said before casting his ballot.

Reporting earlier in the day from Vienna, FRANCE 24’s Jessica Saltz said the Brexit vote and the US elections had given new hope to Hofer’s camp. “Since May, the Brexit vote in the UK and the election of Donald Trump in the US have shown the power of the populist vote and certainly there are many members of the Freedom Party who believed that this would galvanise their supporters to turn up today and cast their ballot for Norbert Hofer.”

Other populist politicians who want their countries to leave the European Union were supportive of Hofer as they look ahead to elections they will face themselves next year. Both France’s Le Pen and anti-immigrant politician Geert Wilders of the Netherlands tweeted their support for Hofer.

For his part, Hofer struck a more conciliatory tone as he showed up to vote on Sunday. “I want to commit myself to changing this union in a positive way. And I don’t want Austria to leave the European Union, that I have to say very clearly,” he said Sunday in his home village of Pinkafeld, south of Vienna. “[But] our strength is not to be an amorphous entity, our strength is diversity, a diverse European Union.”

With most Austrians critical of the EU but not to the point of wanting to leave it, the Freedom Party no longer suggests that Austria would be better off without Brussels. Instead, it is pushing for an EU of loosely allied members mostly sharing economic ties instead of a close political union.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)


From NBC News

VIENNA — Alexander Van der Bellen, who preached moderation and tolerance, won Austria’s presidential election Sunday over right-wing populist Norbert Hofer, according to preliminary results that showed Van der Bellen convincingly ahead despite pre-vote polls showing them neck and neck.

The results, released shortly after the polls closed Sunday, showed Van der Bellen with 53.5 percent of the vote and Hofer having 46.4 percent.

While the final result will not be official until absentee votes are counted Monday, officials said the outstanding ballots will not change the outcome, even if the percentages of what the candidates won may vary.

The Austrian president’s functions are largely ceremonial and past elections have merited little attention outside the country because they were decided between mainstream candidates. This time, though, the contest was different because the vote Sunday was seen as an indicator of how well euroskeptic candidates will do elsewhere in the EU next year.

Van der Bellen is pro-European Union and represents liberal to left-of-center views while Hofer comes from the euroskeptic anti-migrant Freedom Party. Hofer’s campaign message has varied from hard-line when talking to Freedom Party supporters to more moderate when trying to woo undecided voters disenchanted with the political establishment.

Sunday’s election was a rerun from May, which Van der Bellen won by less than 1 percentage point. It was re-held following a court ruling after Hofer’s Freedom Party claimed widespread irregularities.

Van der Bellen on Sunday noted the outsize attention the election in Austria was receiving.

“What happens here today has relevance for all of Europe,” he said before casting his ballot.

Other populist politicians in the EU who want their countries out of the bloc were supportive of Hofer ahead of elections they will face next year. Both far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen of France and anti-immigrant politician Geert Wilders in the Netherlands tweeted their support.

Hofer opted for a soft tone as he voted Sunday.

“I want to commit myself to changing this union in a positive way. And I don’t want Austria to leave the European Union, that I have to say very clearly,” Hofer said Sunday in his home village of Pinkafeld, south of Vienna. “(But) our strength is not to be an amorphous entity, our strength is diversity, a diverse European Union.”

His comments reflected his party’s modified message. With most Austrians critical of the EU but not to the point of wanting to leave it, the Freedom Party no longer suggests that Austria would be better off without Brussels. Instead, it is pushing for an EU of loosely allied members mostly sharing economic ties instead of a close political union.

Germany: At German Reunification Day Celebrations, Shouts of “Get Out” Meet Angela Merkel — Angry crowd waves signs saying “Merkel must go”

October 4, 2016
“Merkel MUST GO” Germany in FLAMES as furious locals torch cars and attack mosqueHUNDREDS of furious protesters heckled Angela Merkel in Dresden just days after police cars were set on fire in the city and bombs exploded outside a mosque.
PUBLISHED: 02:48, Tue, Oct 4, 2016 | UPDATED: 07:36, Tue, Oct 4, 2016

Campaigners jeered the German Chancellor as she attended celebrations in the eastern city to mark 26 years since Germany’s reunification.

Holding placards reading “Merkel must go”, right-wing protesters also shouted the slogan as Merkel, who has faced criticism for her open-door refugee policy, and President Joachim Gauck arrived for the celebrations and greeted spectators.

Graffiti declaring “All of Dresden hates the police” has been sprayed in a street near the scene of the arson.

Hundreds of protesters heckled Angela Merkel as chaos broke out in Dresden


Hundreds of protesters heckled Angela Merkel as chaos broke out in Dresden

Dresden is the birthplace of the anti-Islam Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (PEGIDA) group.The grassroots movement, whose weekly rallies attracted around 20,000 supporters at their height at the start of 2015 held a rally in the city today.Protesters blew whistles and shouted ‘Traitors’ and ‘Get out’ as the German Chancellor arrived in Dresden.

'Merkel must go' Protesters call for the German Chancellor to resignGETTY

‘Merkel must go’ Protesters call for the German Chancellor to resign

Several hundred protesters turned out in DresdenGETTY

Several hundred protesters turned out in Dresden

Others held signs showing Mrs Merkel dressed in a Nazi uniform with the swastikas replaced by Euro symbols and branded Mrs Merkel’s government ‘a dictatorship’.The German Chancellor has come under fire for her open-door policy which has seen one million migrants arrive in Germany.In a short statement, Mrs Merkel, who grew up in the former East Germany, called for “mutual respect” in the political debate and said she wished that all sides could work together to tackle the new problems regardless of their different political views.

Some 2,600 police officers are on duty for the event known as German Unity Day.

Read the rest:





Shouts of “get out” were heard as the German chancellor arrived in Dresden – birthplace of xenophobic movement Pegida – for celebrations.
The angry crowd in the east German city also waved signs saying “Merkel must go”.
The German leader has been under pressure at home over her liberal refugee policy that saw an influx of nearly one million migrants last year.
Dresden is hosting national celebrations to mark 26 years since the reunification of East and West Germany, with the chancellor and President Joachim Gauck in attendance.
Supporters of Pegida, the anti-immigrant, xenophobic group that began in Dresden, also gave Gauck a hostile greeting upon his arrival for the events.
The group initially drew just a few hundred supporters to demonstrations before gaining strength, peaking with rallies of up to 25,000 people in early 2015.
Though Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) took a drubbing in recent regional polls, she insisted on the sidelines of Monday’s celebrations that “mutual respect” and “acceptance of very divergent political opinions” are needed to meet the challenges facing Germany.
The right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) harnessed a wave of anger over the refugee influx to claim around 14 percent of the vote last month the Berlin state vote.
Its success has mirrored the march of anti-migrant parties in France, Austria and the Netherlands as well as Republican maverick Donald Trump in the United States.
Bomb attacks hit a mosque and an international convention centre in Dresden last week, with police suspecting xenophobic and nationalist motives.
Saxony, of which Dresden is the state capital, saw far-right hate crimes targeting shelters for asylum seekers rise to 106 in 2015, with another 50 recorded in the first half of this year.
In an annual report outlining progress since reunification, the government warned last week that growing xenophobia and right-wing extremism could threaten peace in eastern Germany.

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