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Support for Sarrazin

September 5, 2010

A survey says one in five Germans would vote for a party headed by outspoken banker Thilo Sarrazin, whose controversial book on race and integration has topped German best-seller lists since being published last week.

Thilo Sarrazin
Sarrazin says he will fight his dismissal from the BundesbankImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Around 20 percent of German voters would back a party set up by Thilo Sarrazin, the controversial banker who has kicked up a storm with his views on race and immigration, a survey revealed on Sunday.

No such party exists; Sarrazin is a member of the opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) and intends to remain there - despite recent moves by the SPD to evict him.

However, just over 18 percent of Germans polled said they would vote for a party led by Sarrazin, according to the survey published in the mass-circulated Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

Sarrazin, a board member in Germany's central bank, sparked a furious debate when he said that Muslim immigrants in Germany were failing to integrate, had too many children and achieved poor levels of education.

The title cover of Germany Abolishes Itself by Thilo Sarrazin
'Germany Does Away with Itself' is topping best-seller lists

The 65-year-old banker sparked widepread anger by saying the causes were not just social, but genetic. His book, Germany Does Away With Itself, argues that intelligence is largely inherited, and that Muslim immigrants were bringing down German standards.

Book hugely popular

According to the Bild survey, Sarrazin's views found the greatest support amongst followers of the radical Left Party, but also resonated with voters of the current center-right coalition.

"For them, Sarrazin is somebody who is finally saying what many are thinking," said the head of pollsters Emnid, Klaus-Peter Schoeppner.

Demand has surged for Sarrazin's book, which has topped the bestseller list on bookseller Amazon's German website since its publication a week ago. Book tour dates are sold out across the country.

"The rush is unbelievable," said Marion Boesker in the Munich Literature House, a venue where Sarrazin is scheduled to appear. She added that people were worried that Sarrazin's visit could be cancelled.

"The audience doesn't want censorship. They want to talk about the things that are affecting them," Boesker added.

Sarrazin calls criticism 'political show trial'

Sarrazin's SPD, meanwhile, has initiated procedures to evict him from the party, while the central bank has asked President Christian Wulff to approve his dismissal from the bank's board.

A German protesting against Sarrazin's comments
Some Germans think Sarrazin should 'shut up'Image: AP

Sarrazin has threatened to go to court to prevent his dismissal from the Bundesbank. In extracts from an interview with the news weekly Focus, released ahead of publication on Monday, Sarrazin likened the wave of criticism of him against him to a "political show trial."

He said if German President Christian Wulff approved his sacking in the next few days, the decision would be overturned by the justice system.

"The president will have to consider carefully whether he wants to see this political show trial to its end, and then see (his decision) thrown out by the courts," Sarrazin said.

Rules designed to protect the Bundesbank's independence mean the German president's approval must be sought for the dismissal of a board member - something that has never happened since the institution was founded over 50 years ago.

Author: Gabriel Borrud (AFP, dpa)
Editor: Sonia Phalnikar