Alaturka Gazetesi

Far-right’s surge shakes up German politics

BERLIN (AA) – The far-right AfD’s surge in state elections in the eastern German state of Thuringia on Sunday is making it harder for mainstream center-right and left parties to form a coalition government.

The anti-immigrant, Islamophobic Alternative for Germany (AfD) came in second in the ex-communist state, more than doubling its vote share to 23.4%, according to official results announced on Monday.

The socialist Left Party (Die Linke) boosted its vote share from 28.2% to 31%, but failed to win enough seats in the state parliament to govern alone.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) managed to win 21.8%, some 12 points down from the last election, historically the worst result for the party in Thuringia.

The center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) plunged to a record low of 8.2%, making coalition options more complicated.

-CDU faces tough choices

Merkel’s Christian Democrats, who so far ruled out forming a coalition government with far-left or far-right parties, on Monday signaled a readiness to talk with the Left Party.

Mike Mohring, the CDU’s lead candidate, told reporters that he will meet with the Left Party’s top candidate Bodo Ramelow, but did not say whether the CDU has changed its longstanding position.

“I really don’t know at the moment what Mr. Ramelow would tell us. I will go to the meeting with an open mind and listen to him,” he said.

Meanwhile, CDU lawmaker Michael Heym urged his party not to rule out coalition talks with the far-right AfD.

“One would not strengthen democracy by alienating a quarter of the electorate,” he told local media.

Alaturka Gazetesi

German far-right doubles vote in eastern elections

BERLIN (AA) – Germany’s far-right AfD party has doubled its votes in state elections in the eastern state of Thuringia on Sunday, while Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives suffered the worst results in their history.

The anti-immigrant, Islamophobic Alternative for Germany (AfD) was projected to come in second with 23.8% of the vote, up from 10.6% in the last election, according to projections by public broadcaster ARD.

Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) could manage to win 22.5%, down 11 points from the last election, historically the worst result for the party in Thuringia.

The center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) was projected to win 8.5%, down from 12.4% they had secured in the last election in the ex-communist state.

The socialist Left Party (Die Linke) came first in the state elections by securing a record 29.7% of votes, up from 28.2% in the last election in 2014.

However, the party could not win enough votes to govern alone.

Alaturka Gazetesi

Neo-Nazis destroy memorial tree for NSU victims

BERLIN (AA) – A memorial tree planted to remember the first victim of far-right terrorist group NSU has been destroyed by suspected neo-Nazis, authorities said on Friday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert strongly condemned the attack and called for a full investigation into the crime.

“The killing spree of the NSU, which has been undetected over a long period of time, is really a shame for Germany,” Seibert said during a regular press conference in Berlin.

“Remembering victims of this killing spree…We owe this to the victims, their families but also to ourselves….to our struggle for democracy and pluralism in our country,” he stressed.

The memorial tree for Enver Simsek, the NSU’s first victim, was planted last month in the eastern town of Zwickau, where the terrorist group’s three members lived from 2000-2011.

The shadowy neo-Nazi group killed at least eight Turkish immigrants, a Greek worker, and a German policewoman in a seven-year period from 2000-2007.

The German public first learned about the group’s existence in 2011, when two of its members died during a bank robbery attempt.

Until 2011, Germany’s police and intelligence services ruled out any racial motive for the murders and instead treated immigrant families as suspects in the case and even harassed them for alleged connections with mafia groups and drug traffickers.

Alaturka Gazetesi

Turks in Europe face systematic racism: Turkish FM

By Ayhan Simsek

BERLIN (AA) – Turkish migrants increasingly face discriminatory policies and systematic racism in Western Europe, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu said on Wednesday.

"We are worried over growing discrimination faced by Turkish communities in Western Europe," Cavusoglu said during a meeting in the western German city of Dusseldorf, stressing that discriminatory and racist policies were increasingly becoming systematic, and backed by officials at various levels in those countries.

Turkey’s top diplomat met with Turkish Consul Generals serving in European cities for a special gathering to discuss various problems faced by Turkish communities in Europe and possible measures to enhance consular services.

Cavusoglu urged Turkish diplomats to give utmost importance to incidents of racist discrimination, xenophobic attacks and Islamophobic crimes, provide support for the victims and raise concerns in talks with the relevant authorities.

"As Consul Generals you are not only talking with our citizens, but also with politicians in the countries you serve," he said.

"Political leaders should act with common sense, they should refrain from a divisive rhetoric, shouldn’t use religious or ethnic differences for propaganda. This kind of othering rhetoric, using discriminatory rhetoric, creates a climate of hate which emboldens racist attacks. Please tell this during your meetings with interlocutors," he said.

Alaturka Gazetesi

Neo-Nazis face trial for forming terrorist group

BERLIN (AA) – Eight members of the far-right group Revolution Chemnitz went on trial Monday on charges of plotting terrorist attacks in Germany.

The neo-Nazi suspects, aged between 21 and 32, appeared in a regional court in the eastern German state of Dresden for the first time since their arrest last year.

Court spokeswoman Gesine Tews told reporters that eight men were charged with establishing a far-right terror group, planning attacks against foreigners and political rivals, seeking to acquire firearms to overthrow the democratic constitutional order.

The group’s internal communications had revealed that they planned a terrorist attack in Berlin on Oct. 3, during the “Day of German Unity” celebrations.

They were arrested in mid-September 2018 in the eastern German state of Chemnitz, a stronghold of far-right parties and groups.


Germany: Growing risk of neo-Nazi terrorist attacks

BERLIN (AA) – Right-wing extremists in Germany increasingly lean towards violence and the use of online platforms spread propaganda, the country's Interior Ministry said.</p> <p>Among 24,000 far-right extremists identified by security services, more than half are violence-oriented, the ministry said in response to a parliamentary question, which was made public on Friday.</p> <p>The online propaganda of far-right groups via social media networks and other online platforms may lead to the more rapid radicalization of individuals and groups, and incite them to commit acts of violence, the ministry also said. </p> <p>Far-right extremists carried out some 688 violent attacks against foreigners, immigrants or political rivals last year, according to official figures. </p> <p>At least 386 individuals were injured in these attacks.</p> <p>Konstantin Kuhle, a liberal lawmaker from the opposition Free Democratic Party, has called on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government to prepare a new security concept to prevent and counter radicalisation on the Internet. </p> <p>Germany has witnessed growing xenophobia and anti-migrant hatred in recent years, triggered by far-right propaganda which have exploited fears tied to the refugee crisis and terrorism.</p> <p>German opposition parties have long called on the government to take strong action against far-right propaganda, fearing further radicalization of sympathizers and a new wave of violence.


Spanish elections marked by rise of far right

by Alyssa McMurtry

MADRID (AA) – Spain will hold its third general elections in four years on Sunday amid an atmosphere of indecision and rise of the far right.

Polls suggest that around 40% of the electorate was undecided just a week before the national vote.

Since 2015, when Spain’s predominantly two-party political system came to an end, the country has had major difficulties forming a government.

In the 2015 elections, two new parties broke onto Spain’s political landscape – the far left Podemos party and center-right Ciudadanos (Citizens) party. Prior to that, Spanish politics had been dominated by the Popular Party and the Socialist Party. However, issues including corruption, the economic crisis and the growing Catalan separatist movement gave rise to the new political parties.

Their entry into Spanish politics resulted in a Parliament so fragmented that politicians were unable to elect a government. As a result of the political deadlock, general elections were held in 2016.

In 2016, the results of the national election were similarly inconclusive. However, after nearly 10 months with only a caretaker government, Spain’s parliament managed to elect the Popular Party, led by Mariano Rajoy, as the governing party.

Yet, with support from less than half of the Spanish Parliament, the government was toppled in 2018 by a motion of no confidence submitted by the Socialist Party. That is when Pedro Sanchez, the current frontrunner for Sunday’s elections, became Spain’s prime minister.

While Sanchez was able to pass some legislation including a 22% hike in minimum wage, he was unable to pass the 2019 budget and called another round of national elections in the hopes of improving Spain’s governability.

Although the latest polls show the largest voting bloc is undecided, they suggest that the Socialist Party is in the lead, followed by the conservative Popular Party, Citizens, Podemos and Vox.

  • Far-right party makes inroads

Vox is the new addition to Spain’s already fragmented political scene. It is the first far-right party to gain significant political traction since the death of the country’s fascist dictator Francisco Franco in 1975 and is expected to win its first seats in the national parliament on Sunday.

Last December, Vox exceeded expectations and won 12 seats in Andalusia’s regional elections. The latest polls suggest that the party has gone from having virtually no support on the national level to around 11% of popular support. .

Vox’s campaign has been marked by a hard-line position on Catalan separatism, which reached a boiling point in 2017 when a referendum was held on the question of independence. Spanish police cracked down on the vote but the region’s separatist politicians subsequently declared independence.

As a result, the Spanish central government assumed political control of Catalonia and laid charges against the separatist politicians.

Today, several Catalan politicians are in preventative prison while their trials for charges including treason are ongoing, or in self-imposed exile in other European nations.

But for Vox, the Spanish government’s reaction to Catalan separatism was not firm enough.

“We will not permit Spain to commit suicide,” said Vox’s leader Santiago Abascal during its massive final rally in Madrid on Friday night.

Besides Spanish unity, Vox has campaigned on a populist platform that rejects some forms of immigration and feminism. Abascal has made the media and progressive left his enemies and has drawn heavily on the symbolism of the Spanish Reconquista, which was when Christians regained control of the Iberian Peninsula from Muslims in the fifteenth century.

Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, has become a consultant for Vox, and the party seems to be taking many of the same pages from the U.S. president’s playbook. Vox’s rallies are explosive, attracting thousands of people, and the party is playing on the fear, frustration and resentment of patriotic Spaniards who feel neglected by traditional party politics.

“This is the first party that is telling it as it is, not speaking in half-truths and fighting for Spain,” Santiago, 25, told Anadolu Agency after the Vox rally on Friday.

While Vox is unlikely to become the dominant political force after Sunday’s polls, it could be placed in a kingmaker position and has caused increasing polarization between Spain’s left and right.

While the results of Spain’s elections on Sunday are impossible to predict, the most likely possibilities are a left-wing coalition, which may have to resort to the controversial support of regional nationalist parties or a right-wing coalition backed by Vox.

Another likely outcome is that no obvious coalitions exist and Spain’s Parliament again goes months without a functioning government. That scenario could cause voters to return to the polls in national elections long before the government’s four-year term is up.


Poor representation fuels populism in Europe: Study

By Ayhan Simsek

BERLIN (AA) – Many European voters feel poorly represented by politics and are leaning towards supporting populist parties from the left or far-right in May's European Parliament elections, a new study has revealed.

On average, only about six of every 100 voters identify positively with a party, said the study carried out by the German-based Bertelsmann Foundation.

Around 49% of the respondents said they no longer identified themselves with a major political party, but vote against parties they most strongly rejected.

“The more people feel poorly represented by politics, the more receptive they become to populist messages and the more likely they are to elect populist parties, ” said Robert Vehrkamp, co-author of the study, “Europe's Choice “.

The study found that over 10% of voters would back populist right-wing or extreme-right parties, more than the support shown for any other political grouping.

According to the study, Euroskeptic and populist parties have managed to mobilize their supporters and created a stable voter base for themselves in a relatively short period of time ahead of the elections.

Around 450 million eligible voters in the EU member states will elect new representatives to the European Parliament on May 23-26.

Right-wing, anti-immigrant parties are favored to make gains, according to polls.


Far-right uses Notre Dame fire for propaganda

BERLIN (AA) – Germany’s far-right politicians shared xenophobic conspiracies and provocative messages on social media following the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Monday. </p> <p> Alice Weidel, co-chairwoman of far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD), speculated on Twitter that the Notre Dame fire could be an attack targeting Christians, although French authorities ruled out arson or any terror-related motive. </p> <p>Weidel claimed that in February alone 47 attacks were recorded in France that targeted Christians and their churches. </p> <p>AfD lawmaker Anton Friesen tried to exploit the Notre Dame fire to propagate the party’s anti-Muslim narrative. </p> <p>“Worse would happen if we lose our religion and culture to Islam. The mosque of Notre Dame can soon be a reality faster than one may think,” he tweeted. </p> <p>The AfD’s local branch in the western city of Solingen spread false information online soon after the fire, further stoking fear of Muslims and immigrants in Germany. </p> <p>“Attacks against traditional symbols of Christianity would significantly increase in the coming years and we all know why! #NoIslam #Germany,” the AfD’s local branch posted on Facebook.</p> <p>The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which is the largest opposition party at the parliament, has intensified its anti-Islam rhetoric ahead of European Parliament elections in May.</p> <p>Germany has witnessed growing Islamophobia and hatred of migrants in recent years triggered by the propaganda of the AfD and other far-right parties, which have exploited fears over the refugee crisis and terrorism.</p> <p>Police recorded 813 hate crimes against Muslims last year. At least 54 Muslims were injured in the attacks, which were carried out mostly by far-right extremists.</p> <p>Germany, a country of over 81 million people, has the second-largest Muslim population in Western Europe after France. Among the country’s nearly 4.7 million Muslims, 3 million are of Turkish origin.


Muslim woman wearing headscarf attacked in Berlin

BERLIN (AA) – A suspected far-right extremist verbally and physically assaulted a Muslim woman at a Berlin metro station, police said on Monday.</p> <p>The incident was the latest in a string of xenophobic attacks in the German capital in recent months targeting people of foreign appearance, including Muslim women with headscarf or Jews wearing a kippah. </p> <p>The 33-year old Muslim woman told police on Sunday that a man uttered racial slurs and later assaulted her at the Greifswalder metro station. </p> <p>The suspected far-right extremist showed the illegal Nazi salute before running away from the scene, she said.</p> <p>The woman received medical treatment for her injuries, according to the police.</p> <p>Germany has witnessed growing violence by far-right extremists in recent years, fuelled by the propaganda of neo-Nazi groups and the Islamophobic AfD party. </p> <p>Every day, at least three people become a victim of far-right, racist or xenophobic acts of violence in Germany, according to the VBRG, an umbrella group of counseling centers for victims of right-wing violence.