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Konrad Werner: Tactical promotion for the AfD

If you can't beat the AfD... give them a job? I suppose that's where we are now. I guess with an election coming up there is little time to disguise your campaign ploys.

Image for Konrad Werner: Tactical promotion for the AfD
Nordsternhaus, Berlin’s state justice administration building. Photo by Dirk Ingo Franke (CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

We found out last week that Roman Reusch, the new top state prosecutor in Berlin, is also one of the leading members of the AfD in Brandenburg and that his new job will include helping to deport foreign criminals.

A lot of people are angry about this – especially Berlin’s main Turkish community organization the TBB and the Berlin association of defence lawyers, who both released statements pointing out that this is the same Roman Reusch who told Der Spiegel in 2007, “Nearly 80 percent of my perpetrators have an immigrant background, 70 percent are Middle Eastern migrants. Every one of these foreign perpetrators have no business whatsoever in this country,” and, “If it is legally possible at all, then we reach for investigative custody as a means of education” for young offenders, (using investigative custody as a corrective measure is supposed to be illegal).

The then-Justice Minister Gisela von der Aue sacked him for this and other statements (well, sacked him sideways, to another department). But her successor Thomas Heilmann has decided he has no problem with it.

You could argue – and Brandenburg AfD leader Alexander Gauland and state prosecutor press spokesman Martin Steltner would agree with you – that there is nothing illegal going on here. Civil servants in Germany can belong to any political organization they like, as long as they’re not banned.

And you could also argue that this is what a democracy is supposed to be. And if we start banning AfD people from doing things that members of every other party can do it will just feed the general paranoid victim complex that Pegida people carry round with them like a big monkey that makes them jibber and squawk like excited parrots (sometimes only mixed animal metaphors will do).

BUT 1) There is a provision in German law, made in a 1960 top court ruling, (as heise.de pointed out), saying that a public official can be suspended “if through his behaviour he brought occasion to doubt his personal or professional suitability.” Also, there was a communist party member being banned from a public position in 1987, so it’s not actually illegal or without precedent to ban public officials because of their political affiliations.

BUT 2) It’s hard to imagine this appointment being made if the AfD weren’t polling 13 percent and taking votes off the SPD and the CDU in September’s election. This looks a lot like a doomed attempt to mollify the far-right in a way that – if you look back on German history – never works.

For a chattier version of this, as well as and Konrad’s funny story from the Lutz Bachmann trial, listen to News des Nachrichtens, with Drew Portnoy:

Konrad also made a guest appearance on this week’s Radio Spätkauf, with a round-up of Berlin politics: