Opinion: PEGIDA does away with itself | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 29.01.2015
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Opinion: PEGIDA does away with itself

The demise of PEGIDA is foreseeable, but the questions the group raised remain. Especially the question of who will politically attend to the matters of PEGIDA supporters, writes DW's Felix Steiner.

Sometimes you can become the victim of your own success. This often holds true, especially in the founding phase of political parties and movements. When a new group meets with a widespread response, it then magically attracts whiners, frustrated people and weirdos. And they in turn test the group's tolerance with their crazy ideas and their skewed and particular interests.

The result? Endless infighting. Politically inexperienced leaders at their wits' end. They usually have to make a living outside of politics. And then have to give it up. Constant arguments annoy the public, they lose popularity and then fade into oblivion. This was recently the fate of Statt-Partei and the Pirates. They virtually did away with themselves. It still remains to be seen whether the Alternative für Deutschland is more than a temporary phenomenon.

The end of PEGIDA is foreseeable

In the coming weeks, the process will run its course for the PEGIDA protest movement. Of course, there will still be several demonstrations in Dresden. But it's clear that fewer people will participate. That means media coverage will not be as serious and that in turn will lead to even fewer people at the next march. PEGIDA will fizzle out.

Felix Steiner

DW editor Felix Steiner

Someday it will be little more than an interesting question for modern historians. What happened when? Did it begin as a citizens' movement that quickly grew and was then taken over by right-wing radicals? Or was it initiated by right-wing extremists who managed to put together a basic position that was compatible with the masses? And did they manage to do it in a way that even thousands of citizen who came to the "evening walks" in Dresden would be indignant when they described as right-wing radicals?

The questions remain

Many German editorial and political offices should be relieved about the news from Dresden. PEGIDA baffled them at the least but often met them with open hostility and condescending polemics. At least the latter was not a page of glory for Germany - convincing others and not ostracizing them is the mark of a lively democracy. Those looking to abolish democracy need to be - and must be - fought, but there needs to be space for people to freely express their opinions. Yet, even if the PEGIDA demonstrations end soon, the demonstrators' questions remain.

There is, for example, the issue of how we deal with radical Muslims in our society. With the danger of them staging attacks, out of a hate for our freedom and tolerance that we cannot understand. The question of why forced marriage and honor killings - which now take place in Germany - are often not described as such in media coverage thanks to non-discrimination in the German press code. Sweeping accusations of a "media liars" has its origins in exactly those types of statements. Or the question of whether it is better to put up refugees and asylum seekers in private homes instead of collective centers. Because five foreigners in a neighborhood arouse less concern than 50 or even 500. But where are issues like this openly discussed in Germany? Certainly not in the local branches of the CDU and SPD!

Who represents PEGIDA politically?

The key question is the same: Who will politically accept PEGIDA's supporters. Sigmar Gabriel recently visited Dresden and the SPD leader's visit was an important sign. But is his party going to follow suit? In the CDU, the party's deputy Julia Klöckner took the initiative and promoted understanding towards the PEGIDA supporters. Then many media outlets immediately accused her of being a Nazi sympathizer. Seeing as she wants to win the upcoming regional elections in Rhineland-Palatinate this year, she will soon stop any further overtures.

Then there is "Alternative für Deutschland." They are meeting for a party convention in Hamburg this weekend. They should use the conference to show in which direction their young party is headed. They just barely missed getting into German parliament in last year's election. The main question is: Is it possible to have a party in Germany to the right of the CDU that is not politically ostracized because it is on the outside of the democratic spectrum?

If so, Angela Merkel should be hearing the alarm bells ringing. Outside the grand coalition, she hardly has any perspectives for a coalition that will represent the majority. She certainly cannot want that. It would be completely wrong to conclude that the PEGIDA problem has taken care of itself. Especially as the Dresden protest movement unravels, it's crucial that the demonstrators' questions are discussed by Germany's two major so-called catch-all political parties. If they're not willing to address the issue then they don't deserve to call themselves the parties of the people.

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