Demonstrators for an open and tolerant Berlin at the Spreebogen. The current campaign season has been marred by attacks on politicians/Photo: AfricanCourierMedia

Attacks on politicians in Germany on the rise

There have been several attacks on politicians in Germany in recent weeks. For example, the SPD politician Franziska Giffey was injured in Berlin. In the city of Dresden, SPD politician Matthias Ecke was attacked. Attacks on politicians are currently on the rise.

It’s election time in Germany as citizens prepare to vote at the European Parliament elections in early June. The parties are campaigning, holding rallies and other events and also putting up election posters everywhere. But insults, threats and intimidation have unfortunately been part of the electioneering season.

There have been several attacks on politicians in Germany in recent days. In Essen, Green Party politician Rolf Fliß was insulted and punched in the face, in Nordhorn an unnamed AfD member of the state parliament was pelted with an egg and punched in the face and in Dresden, SPD Member of the European Parliament Matthias Ecke was beaten up and hospitalised. Ecke requires surgery. According to the police, shortly before the attack, the same group had presumably injured a Green Party campaign worker in the neighbourhood.

Most attacks on politicians have happened during the election campaign. The police say that some of the attackers are right-wing extremists. The man who attacked Franziska Giffey was probably mentally ill. An increase in election-related crime has been observed for a number of years.

Looking purely at the offences committed against party representatives in 2023, the Greens are by far the most frequently affected. According to an answer to a question from the AfD, the German government registered 1219 offences. The right-wing populists are in second place with 478 offences against their politicians.

The motivation of the attackers is to intimidate politicians they consider represent positions that they oppose.

There is now talk in Germany about how politicians can be better protected. Some say: there must be more police protection. Others say: the attackers must be punished more severely.

Following the attack on Berlin Senator for Economic Affairs, Franziska Giffey, Leipzig Mayor Burkhard Jung has also called for more decisive action by the judiciary when it comes to threats against politicians. “We are far too lax, far too lax,” said the SPD politician on Deutschlandfunk radio. He himself had passed on more than 50 reports of threats to the public prosecutor’s office in the past three years. There had been convictions in two cases.

However, Jung also emphasised that the problem would not be tackled by the police and judiciary alone, but that a discussion about the political culture in Germany was needed.

“Attacks on elected representatives have increased more and more in recent years, hate comments are being made on social media and verbal violence is laying the groundwork for physical violence,” said Berlin head of the GdP police union, Stephan Weh, in a statement.

“Instead of exchanging opinions and engaging in arguments, people are now rushing and hitting back,” he noted. This seems to have long been the norm, but it shouldn’t be, the police unionist added. “Politicians, police officers, firefighters and volunteers are in the spotlight because they are putting themselves on the back foot to stand up for others.”

It is time that sustainable measures are taken to protect them, Weh added. “We need better criminal law protection for public officials and elected representatives as well as a strengthening of the police and judiciary in terms of personnel and technology so that they do not become targets,” said Weh.

Germany’s Minister of the Interior, Nancy Faeser, has also commented on the attacks. She told the press in Berlin that the number of attacks on elected officials had already risen by 53 per cent in 2023 compared to 2022. “We are experiencing an escalation of anti-democratic violence,” she explained. “We are thinking about tougher penalties. But the law has to be changed for that.”

In an interview with tagesthemen, she made it clear that “a very clear signal to stop violent offenders” was necessary. In this context, she announced stricter penalties. “I will now also lobby the Federal Minister of Justice, Mr Buschmann, for this,” Faeser added.

Felix Dappah

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