Far-right Bundestag committee chairman told to quit by German parties | News | DW | 02.11.2019
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Far-right Bundestag committee chairman told to quit by German parties

Five German parties have upped calls for a far-right AfD member to quit as chairman of the Bundestag's legal committee. Stephan Brandner has been accused of using "outrageous" allusions to slur rock star Udo Lindenberg.

Brandner had "toyed quite deliberately with anti-Semitic terminology" in a tweet directed at Lindenberg, said Jan-Marco Luczak, deputy legal affairs spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative CDU/CSU parliamentary bloc. 

Brandner, of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, had tweeted on Thursday that the recent presentation to Lindenberg of Germany's prestigious Federal Order of Merit (Bundesverdienstkreuz) amounted to a "Judaslohn" for the rock star's outspoken stand "against us [the AfD]."

The word "Judaslohn" is used in German to mean a traitor's reward like that paid to the figure of Judas for his betrayal of Jesus of Nazareth as depicted in the Bible.

'Outrageous,' says Bavarian CSU

Brandner's allusion to biblical accounts of Jesus being betrayed before his crucifixion was described as "outrageous" by Volker Ullrich, interior affairs spokesman for Merkel's sister party, Bavaria's Christian Social Union (CSU).

Read more: Dresden declares 'Nazi emergency'

Ullrich told the business newspaper Handelsblatt Saturday that Brandner's attitude was "patently undignified."

He must resign as chairman of the federal parliament's legal affairs committee, Ullrich said, given the committee's task to oversee democracy, civil law principles and values espoused in Germany's constitution, or Basic Law.

Last month, Brandner ended up apologizing in parliament's debating chamber after drawing cross-party condemnation for retweeting a racist post in the wake of a right-wing extremist's gun attack on Halle's synagogue that ended in two deaths.  

Parliament's administrative committee urged to act

Johannes Fechner, legal affairs spokesman for the Social Democrats (SPD) — who have been in coalition with Merkel's conservatives since early 2018 — said his party wanted Brandner removed as chairman via the Bundestag's Standing Orders Committee, despite unclear procedures for such a move.

Opposition Green party parliamentary manager Britta Hasselmann wrote on Twitter: "This man is unworthy as legal affairs committee chairman and unacceptable in this role."

Parliamentarian Marco Buschmann, of the opposition business-friendly FDP, accused Brandner of "gambling" with anti-Semitic prejudices.

"That is simply disgusting and not worthy of a committee chairman of the German Bundestag," Buschmann said.

Lindenberg's broadside

Lindenberg, a popular 73-year-old veteran of Germany's rock music scene, had on Wednesday via Facebook slammed the AfD's second-place 23.4% result in last weekend's Thuringia state election, drawing parallels to Hitler's rise.

"Twenty-four percent; and many still say: It will never repeat itself — but do you all not see the same old, new slogans on the house walls? And that the same cold vomit (like 80 years ago) spills again from their mouths," posted Lindenberg in German on Facebook.

Höcke's far-right rhetoric

Extremism researcher Alexander Häusler told Deutschlandfunk public radio on Saturday that Björn Höcke, the AfD's leading figure in Thuringia, was pursuing a "far-right rhetoric of exaltation."

Read more: Left tops Thuringia election; AfD second, eclipses Merkel's CDU

What was happening in Thuringia, said Häusler, was a "far-right radicalization" of street sentiment. "We can observe a merging of party functionaries with an openly extremist right-wing mob," he said.

Reelected State Premier Bodo Ramelow of the socialist Left party — who is again seeking a broad coalition Cabinet — was, by contrast, pursuing a "reformist leftist agenda" that showed "no signs" of becoming hostile to Germany's constitution, said Häusler.

He urged observers not to confuse two "very different" trends. "The AfD is not a mainstream party, but more and more an openly radical right-wing party," said Häusler, that had "nothing to do with center-right and conservative political approaches."

ipj/tj (dpa, AFP)

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