Far right surge puts Berlin on edge ahead of election

first_imgThat effect is typically stronger when the projected outcome, as in the case of the German election, is a foregone conclusion.Inevitable MerkelPerhaps the best explanation for the late resurgence of the AfD is the perceived inevitability of another four years of Merkel as chancellor and a sense that no matter whom she governs with, little will change.Even for close observers of Germany’s humdrum election campaign, identifying the policy differences between the big parties can be difficult.That harmony was on full display in the only televised debate between Merkel and Martin Schulz, her Social Democrat challenger, in early September.Some analysts say the encounter was a turning point in the campaign because it shifted the focus to smaller parties.Here too, the AfD appears to have benefited from its outsider image. Of the five parties running against Merkel’s conservatives, three — the SPD, the Greens and Free Democrats — are open to a coalition with the chancellor. “Trust in politics, especially in the CDU, has grown,” Peter Altmaier, Merkel’s chief of staff, said recently.The AfD, meanwhile, stuck to its extremist anti-Merkel, anti-establishment playbook. What appeared to be missteps — such as a private email exchange in which party leader Alice Weidel reportedly attacked Germany’s democratic system and called the ruling political class “pigs”— did little to halt the AfD’s momentum.Mainstream politicians, led by Altmaier, sought to ostracize the party, going as far as to tell Germans it was better not to vote at all than to vote for the AfD. Leading Social Democrats castigated the AfD as “Nazis.”Critics say such attacks have only backfired.“Given the prospect that the AfD could finish third on Sunday, this strategy can only be described as a spectacular failure,“ Jasper von Altenbockum, politics editor at the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, concluded this week, arguing that the insults have only mobilized the AfD’s base.Such last-minute skirmishes notwithstanding, it’s also true that populist parties often strengthen in the final stages of election campaigns. “Everything is possible, from 31 to 43 percent,” Reiner Haseloff, CDU premier in Saxony-Anhalt, reportedly told colleagues this week. Also On POLITICO OPTICS In pictures: Keeping (some) AfD posters just out of reach By Kirsten Kortebein German minister calls far-right AfD’s manifesto unconstitutional By Saim Saeed and Judith Mischke German far-right leader Weidel files lawsuit against journalist By Judith Mischke That means voters ardently opposed to Merkel have only two real options — the leftist Die Linke party and the AfD.A vandalized election campaign billboard that shows German Chancellor Angela Merkel and reads: “Successful for Germany” in Berlin | Sean Gallup/Getty ImagesWhat’s more, when it comes to immigration, an issue polls show is top of mind for many Germans, the AfD is the only party prepared to take a hard line on admitting asylum seekers.The reemergence of the refugee crisis in recent months in the media appears to have bolstered the AfD’s position. Italy’s struggle to cope with an upsurge in arrivals from Africa in the summer renewed fears in Germany that it could face a new wave of migrants traveling north over the Brenner Pass through Austria to the German border.Despite that prospect, Merkel has steadfastly declined to back away from her resistance to setting an upper limit on asylum seekers, a key demand of conservatives in her own camp.For now, Merkel and her strategists can do little but sit and wait for the projections to roll in on Sunday afternoon. The party has been polling in the mid-30s, well below the 41.5 percent it won in 2013.Even senior party officials appear to have little confidence in Sunday’s outcome.center_img BERLIN — The mood in Berlin’s political circles as the hours tick down toward election day might best be described by that ur-German instinct – angst.Even though most of Berlin’s political hacks remain convinced Angela Merkel will win by a comfortable margin in Sunday’s parliamentary election, they’re unnerved by a last-minute surge by the Alternative for Germany (AfD), a far-right party that until a few weeks ago many in the establishment believed had been defanged, at least for the moment.As the campaign winds to a close, all but one of Germany’s leading pollsters project the party will finish in double digits. It scored 12 percent in the benchmark Deutschlandtrend poll last week, for example. Germany’s two biggest parties, Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), meanwhile, have suffered slight losses in recent weeks. Though the race for the bronze medal is still too close to call, there’s no denying the AfD is gaining momentum. A third-place finish — behind the Merkel’s conservative bloc and the SPD — could make the AfD Germany’s largest opposition party, bestowing on it a host of privileges, including generous public financing, that would make it a formidable political force.A robust showing by the AfD would also complicate the coalition math for Merkel, possibly narrowing her options to another “grand coalition” with the SPD, an outcome many argue would only further strengthen the AfD.The populist, anti-immigrant movement saw its star rise amid the refugee crisis in 2015. But after Merkel’s government toughened asylum rules and the influx of migrants began to ebb, support for the party weakened.Voters ardently opposed to Merkel have only two real options — the leftist Die Linke party and the AfD.After hitting a high of 16 percent in polls last September, the AfD fell to as low as 8 percent in August. The party was also plagued by infighting, further blunting its appeal.Germany’s centrist parties, especially Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), had taken comfort in the AfD’s dwindling fortunes for months.last_img read more

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Secret courts ‘will conceal UK complicity in torture’

first_imgThe UN special rapporteur on torture has said that so-called ‘secret courts’ could be used to suppress evidence of British collusion in torture. Professor Juan Mendez, speaking at the thinktank Chatham House on 10 September, became the latest high-profile figure to criticise UK government plans – outlined in the Justice and Security Bill – to require courts to hear evidence in closed proceedings where issues of national security are involved. Mendez, who was himself tortured by the Argentine junta during that country’s ‘dirty war’ in the 1970s, said: ‘If a country is in possession of information about human rights abuses, but isn’t in a position to mention them, it hampers the ability to deal effectively with torture.’ British ministers, including former justice secretary Kenneth Clarke, have defended the use of closed material proceedings on the grounds that they protect the UK’s intelligence-sharing relationship with the US and other friendly governments. They argue that disclosing information obtained through covert means in court could put lives in jeopardy and expose sources of sensitive information. In April, Parliament’s joint committee on human rights said that the government’s proposals would have a ‘very considerable impact’ on the reporting of matters of public interest and concern, and would reduce public confidence and trust ‘in both the government and the courts’. The Justice and Security Bill had its second hearing in the House of Lords in July. The Liberal Democrats continue to oppose it, maintaining that closed material procedures were not part of the Liberal Democrat or Conservative manifestos in 2010, or part of the coalition agreement.last_img read more

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Govt launches grand Hurricane Relief Concert

first_imgAs Guyana embarks on phase two of its relief efforts directed towards the hurricane-ravaged islands across the Caribbean region, the Government, in collaboration with private stakeholders, has launched a grand relief concert to raise funds for the impending ventures.Minister of State Joseph Harmon is joined by Social Protection Minister Amna Ally and other officials at the launch of the Hurricane Relief ConcertD’Urban Park has been listed as the official venue for the grand showcase, billed for November 11.The benefit concert will feature a number of regional and international artistes, backed by a solid line-up of local stars. Headlining the show will be Caribbean sensation Patrice Roberts, joined by Orlando Octave, best known for his Soca hit, titled “Single.”This initiative comes shortly after the Civil Defence Commission wrapped up the first phase of relief efforts, which saw the shipment of 11 containers comprising of food, clothing, medical supplies and other essential materials for the victims hit by the string of tropical cyclones.Adding to that, a total of 54 Guyanese were evacuated from the destruction which was left behind after five locally chartered flights were sent in to the islands to rescue countrymen from the ruins.Minister of State Joseph Harmon receiving the cheque from a representative of the BK Group of CompaniesWith that being completed, the country now turns its attention to assisting with the recovery and restoration ventures, and as such, this grand gesture was birthed to generate the necessary finances.Speaking at the launch of the Hurricane Relief Concert was CDC Preparedness and Response Manager Sean Welcome, who explained what prompted this national collaboration.“A decision was taken for us to have a second phase in regard to our relief efforts, and this phase intends to target the reconstruction. We recognize that in order to achieve this, we need an activity that will bring in the sort of financial support that will allow us as a people to make a tangible donation towards the effort,” the CDC Manager outlined.And welcoming the initiative, Minister of State Joseph Harmon noted that such ventures exemplify Guyana’s commitment to regional integration.Harmon extended an invitation to the general public to play their part in assisting their affected Caribbean neighbours by supporting the relief and recovery mission.In doing so, he relayed, “I want to commend the organisers of this event, and I am pleased to be part of the official launching of this Hurricane Relief Concert.”Minister Harmon, also the National Disaster Coordinator, further said, “We are going to fill D’Urban Park. We are going to bring people from all across the region to ensure that we get a real lively concert, and the proceeds from that concert will reach down to the benefit of those citizens who were affected by the hurricanes.”Continuing on that note was Douglas Slater, CARICOM’s Assistant Secretary General with responsibility for Human Development, who applauded the efforts undertaken by Guyanese in lending a helping hand to those affected by hurricanes throughout the region.“We are all in this together. It is really heartwarming to see our CARICOM neighbours stepping up to the plate. So, on behalf of the Secretary General and the committee at the CARICOM Secretariat, we thank you for you expression of solidarity and support, and we wish the concert every success that it deserves,” expressed the Assistant Secretary General.Tickets to the Hurricane Relief Concert, dubbed “the biggest event of the month”, are tagged at $1000, with all proceeds to be directed towards the rebuilding and rehabilitation of the hurricane-affected Caribbean nations.Among the private entities which have already thrown their support behind this initiative are the BK Group of Companies, and the Agri Parts Machinery & Services. At the launch of the concert, each of these companies plugged a cheque worth $2million in ensuring the successful event of the charitable undertaking.last_img read more

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