Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière is facing challenges in the wake of recent terror attacks. He has now presented new security measures, but a fight has broken out over domestic security, says Fabian von der Mark.
When interior ministers receive bad news, they often feel that they have to answer two questions. First: "How could this happen?" And second: "What can we do to keep something like this from happening again?"
The answers "bad luck" and "nothing" would often be the most honest, but one never hears them.
But, Thomas de Maizière came close to doing so when he said that there is no such thing as hundred percent security, and that he saw no need for new laws after the ax attack in Würzburg, the shooting spree in Munich and the suicide bombing in Ansbach.
It is difficult for an interior minister to call for new laws. First, he effectively has to demand them from himself as it were, and secondly, citizens rightly ask: If there were security gaps, why weren't they closed before?
Last year, de Maizière responded comprehensively to three situations. To the millions of immigrants with a new immigration law - keyword: encourage and demand. In response to the sexual assaults that took place in Cologne on New Year's Eve with a deportation offensive directed at people from North Africa. And to the terror attacks in Brussels with an anti-terror law, which had, among other things, the aim of improving the exchange of data between various national and international security agencies.
Then came what the tabloid press labeled the "blood week" in Bavaria. Attacks in, of all places, the state in which the ruling Christian Social Union (CSU) has made domestic security the essence of its brand.
When de Maizière called for prudence, his Bavarian counterpart retorted that prudence was well and good, but now was the time to act. What followed was a catalog of demands that must have annoyed him. Had he only insisted upon a common analysis and review conducted by states and the federal government before.
His spokesman took the opportunity to explain that it is not as if the federal government had been doing nothing. He then presented something very similar to what the chancellor had presented as her "9-point plan" during her summer press conference. Now, the interior minister is going above and beyond that plan.
Who is best at handling domestic security?
It is often said of interior ministers that they always have a few harsher measures in their desk drawer in the event of a disaster, measures that they would not dare present in quieter times. Thomas de Maizière never made that impression. Yet now, when even his coalition partners in the Social Democratic Party (SPD) are openly criticizing him - "The interior minister is not adequately equipping the federal police" - de Maizière is no longer reacting calmly, but rather irritably. His proposals seem as if to say: "If you think you can deal with more security say 'yes' to this."
Now, more telecommunications data retention and easier deportations are to be made possible, and medical confidentiality is to be limited if criminal acts can be prevented by suspending it. And that is not all: Together with CDU and CSU state interior ministers, de Maizière seems to be drafting a number of further plans ranging from a burka ban to the revocation of citizenship - and beyond.
Key election issue
The opposition will brush off the measures as pure posturing and ask, why now? And the interior minister will justify the measures by saying that they are a reaction to threat levels in Germany. In fact, de Maizière is acting as a loyal minister and party politician. His boss, CDU Chairwoman and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, is clearly feeling the uncertainty of German voters as relates to her approval ratings. These have been in free fall in recent opinion polls.
State parliamentary elections will be held this September, and federal elections next year. In light of the current mood, it is clear that domestic security will be a dominant issue in Germany's election campaigns. Demands from opponents on the right - fewer Muslims (AfD) - and now even on the left - more police (SPD) - mean that the CDU is now in a fight over who can provide more security. And Thomas de Maizière (CDU) is the key player in that fight.
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