Merkel Suffers Electoral Defeat to Anti-Immigrant Nationalists

This past Sunday saw a stunning defeat of Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) at the hands of an ascendent radical right-wing party known as the Alternative for Germany Party (AfD).

The local defeat took place in Merkel’s own parliamentary constituency in the state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania. While the results do not threaten CDU’s hold on power nationally, they provide a sobering look at voter sentiment just a year out from national elections.

Merkel’s governing party not only fell behind AfD in this past weekend’s elections, but was also defeated by the center-left Social Democrats, leaving CDU in third place in what has historically been a safe district for the party.

Analysts point to the Germany government’s policy on refugees as the primary catalyst for the rise of populist, anti-immigrant sentiment among the nation’s population. Frauke Petry – leader for the AfD – credits Merkel’s open border policy for her own party’s success:

The CDU is falling apart, but not only [in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania]. We see that in many regions of Germany where the CDU bases, the party bases, don’t agree with Merkel’s policy anymore. We want that the German government closes German borders to illegal migration… We need controlled borders. We need a change of legislation on a German level, but also an EU level, to avoid illegal migration.

CDU candidate Lorenz Caffier agreed, stating that “there was only one subject during the campaign, and that subject was the refugee policy. The refugee question was decisive.”

In 2015, Merkel’s government accepted more than 1 million refugees – mainly Syrians fleeing the intractable conflict in their home country – making it the single most open nation in Europe. Over the past year, several attacks linked to Islamists have heightened fears of immigration and provided fuel for nationalists to stoke anti-Muslim sentiment.

Far from being unique, Germany is a piece of a larger puzzle. Far-right nationalist parties are succeeding across Europe. In France, the National Front has made great strides in recent years, taking advantage of voters’ insecurities stemming from immigration and terror attacks.

Earlier this year, Petry sparked outrage when she suggested that the border patrol shoot immigrants attempting to cross illegally into Germany. This language is a big deal. Since the horrors of WWII, Germany has celebrated a culturally liberal spirit that has shamed many other nations with an emphasis on multiculturalism and acceptance.

These historical tendencies – however – are now under threat from rising populist parties that offer few solutions to their voters’ economic and cultural fears other than promises of international isolation and the marginalization of disadvantaged communities. While the issues that have caused the largest displacement of people in a century are complex and variegated, further disenfranchising desperate populations will only abet the very terrorists that have contributed to refugees’ plight.

Not only is a more humane treatment necessary to promote the general social good, but it’s integral to any meaningful security policy designed to keep Western nations safe.

Terror in Munich: Live Updates on Multiple Shootings

(Karlsplatz, Munich)

Update: 9:10PM ET
Germany authorities have confirmed that there was one assailant in today’s shootings, an 18 year old man with dual Iranian and German citizenship.

As of now, authorities are uncertain of the shooter’s motives, though there have been reports that the individual shouted anti-foreigner epithets. In total the individual killed 9 people and injured at least 21 before taking his own life.

That’s it for today’s rolling coverage. The Tap will have more as details emerge in Munich over the coming days.
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Update: 5:45PM ET

A witness has told a local media outlet that one gunman shouted anti-foreigner slurs before opening fire.

Authorities have updated the number of fatalities to 9, which may include one of the attack’s perpetrators who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Additionally, authorities are requesting that individuals with relevant photos and videos of the attack should send them to the police instead of posting them online,
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Update: 4:34PM ET
Authorities have revised the number of fatalities to 8.

Appearing at the United Nations in New York City, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson provided the following statement:

Everybody is shocked and saddened by what has taken place. Our thoughts are very much with the victims, their families, with the people of Munich, and the people of Germany more widely.

If, as seems very likely, this is another terrorist incident, then I think it proves once again that we have a global phenomenon now and a global sickness that we have to tackle both at source – in the areas where the cancer is being incubated in the middle east – and also of course around the world.

Authorities are yet to identify the motive or background of the perpetrator(s) of today’s shooting.

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Update: 3:24PM ET
Local media outlets are now reporting that at least one of the shooters has died from self-inflicted gun shot wounds.

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Update: 3:09PM ET
US President Barack Obama has issued a pledge of support for Germany:

We don’t yet know exactly what’s happening there, but obviously our hearts go out to those who may have been injured. We are going to pledge all the support they may need.

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Update: 2:32PM ET
Authorities are requesting that social media users refrain from posting video/photo of police operations so as to not help the perpetrator(s). The US consulate in Munich has issued an emergency message to US citizens advising them to seek shelter. The city of Munich has declared a state of emergency and has urged citizens to remain indoors.

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Update: 2:18PM ET
Unconfirmed witness reports indicate three gunmen active in the area near the Olympia shopping centre in Munich. Authorities now confirm at least 6 dead.

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Reports are coming in from Munich, Germany, where an undisclosed number of gunmen have opened fire at multiple locations.

Authorities have confirmed three dead so far. Current unconfirmed reports indicate the locations of the shootings to be Karlsplatz, Stachus, and Odeonplatz.

A police spokesperson has said issued the following statement:

We believe there was more than one perpetrator. The first reports came at 6 pm, the shooting apparently began at a McDonald’s in the shopping centre. There are still people in the shopping centre. We are trying to get the people out and take care of them.

Authorities have informed Munich residents to avoid public areas.

The Tap will issue updates as further details emerge.

Germany Poised to Annul Convictions of Gay Men

(Participants in Cologne’s 2014 Gay Pride March)

The Federal Republic of Germany took a positive step toward atonement this week, as the government announced that it would annul convictions of homosexuality left over from a now repealed law known as Paragraph 175. The annulments will apply to the convictions of more than 50,000 men.

The law was first put in place toward the end of the 19th century, though was half-heartedly enforced, especially in Berlin where gay culture thrived compared to other European capitals during the first quarter of the 20th century. Under the Nazi regime, however, gay Germans faced fierce prosecution, with many sentenced to castration and over 15,000 sent to concentration camps where Nazi authorities compelled them to wear pink triangles to distinguish themselves.

Following WWII, West German authorities left the law in place, maintaining a persecutory environment that greatly harmed Germany’s gay citizens. While the law was largely defanged in 1969, the government did not take the full leap in reconciling itself with the nation’s history of anti-gay sentiment and policy. For instance, while most survivors of German crimes against humanity during the Nazi terror received some form of reparations by the late 1960s, those prosecuted for homosexuality did not.

Paragraph 175 was fully repealed in 1994.

While the LGBT rights movement has secured major victories over the past several decades, even gay-friendly nations have not addressed past human rights transgressions committed out of anti-gay animus. In 2013, British Queen Elizabeth II granted a post-humous pardon for Alan Turing – the brilliant mathematician depicted in the 2014 film The Imitation Game who was prosecuted for homosexual acts in 1952 and sentenced to chemical castration. He died shortly thereafter. The pardon occurred after an online petition called for the restoration of Turing’s good standing. A mass pardon for thousands of men similarly convicted, however, was put on hold in 2015 after members of the Tories claimed that the pardon would benefit those convicted of pedophilia.

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