Christine Madden

journalist | editor | dramaturg | literary translator

Tag: Germany (page 1 of 2)

Turmoil in Thuringia

Image tweeted by die Linke leader in Thuringia, Bodo Ramelow: “Hold your head up, not your hands!”

With the shock election of a minority party member to the position of minister president of Thuringia with the help of the AfD, Germany’s political landscape suffers an earthquake

While all eyes seem to be riveted on the US presidential impeachment – or lack thereof – simmering political turmoil in Germany has suddenly erupted into scandal. The situation was described this morning by Chancellor Angela Merkel as an “unforgivable process”.

The event that has set the cat amongst the pigeons was the election of FDP (Free Democratic Party) candidate Thomas Kemmerich to the position of minister president in the German state of Thuringia. Innocuous? Not so much.

Although the Thuringia state election took place on 27 October 2019, the results gave no clear majority to any party – but with the two parties on the fringes of the political spectrum gaining the most support. The far left-leaning die Linke secured 30 per cent of votes, followed in second place by the far-right AfD (Alternativ für Deutschland) with 23.4 per cent. The only other party with comparable figures was the centre-right CDU (Christian Democratic Union), trailing the AfD with 21.7 per cent of the vote. The centre-right, neo-liberal FDP just squeaked in with 5 per cent.

The results show a state riven by political discord. This played out in the attempts to elect a minister president to lead the government. The now former minister president Bodo Ramelow, a Linke party member, had been expected to resume his position. 

But rancour amongst the various parties could not be resolved, coalition agreements could not be reached. The CDU – which could have formed a coalition with die Linke – refused to go into government with them. No party wished to work together with the AfD, known for its anti-immigrant stance, branded racist in many quarters, and harbouring alleged connections and sympathies with the Nazis. 

Three votes took place. The Linke and AfD parties both put candidates up for the state parliamentary vote for minister president: Ramelow by die Linke, and independent candidate Christoph Kindervater by the AfD. Ramelow was unable to regain victory with the combined votes from his own party, the SPD and the Greens. In the third round, a new, surprise candidate presented himself: Kemmerich from the FDP, the party least represented in the Thuringian state parliament. He won over Ramelow by one vote, 45 to 44 – with every member of the AfD switching their vote to him from their own candidate in this round. Together with the support of the CDU and Kemmerich’s FDP, it was enough to push him through.

AfD leader Björn Höcke (right) congratulates Thomas Kemmerich on his victory in a screen grab from a story in Spiegel magazine

Conspiracy theories about agreements – secret or tacit – abound, although the FDP insist there were no discussions or trade-offs, and that they would not work together with the AfD. But the political, press and social media shitstorm whipped up by this event has taken over the airwaves – nudging even the coronovirus into second place.

Politicians from almost all corners have resoundingly condemned Kemmerich’s acceptance of the vote, many calling for new state elections in Thuringia. Up to now, Kemmerich has, however, remained firm and insists that he has been legitimately elected to the post of minister president. Both Merkel and CDU party leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer have voiced their disapproval, with AKK saying that her compatriots in Thuringia voted against the advice of the federal party leadership, and threatening consequences. Even in Bavaria, Markus Söder, the leader of the CSU (Christlich Social Union, right-leaning sister party of the CDU), said that his party would “not take part in any such adventure if it extended to the federal level”. A tweet from CSU party member Dorothee Bär, however, congratulated Kemmerich for his victory – and was immediately and vociferously condemned and swiftly removed.

Screenshot of tweet by Bodo Ramelow quoting Hitler: “We aimed for our greatest success in Thuringia”.

After the vote, Ramelow quoted Hitler in a tweet on Wednesday evening: “‘We aimed for our greatest success in Thuringia … The parties in Thuringia that formed the government up to now will not be able to command a majority without our help.’” The tweet refers to the fact that Thuringia was the first German state in the Weimar Republic to include the Nazis in its notorious Baum-Frick government in 1930, helping to pave the way for their dominance across Germany.

The spectre of Nazism remains fresh – reminding most people of what once happened, what could happen and what should never again take place. 

BREAKING NEWS 

Bowing to pressure, the newly elected minister president Thomas Kemmerich has announced he is stepping down. The FDP in Thuringen plans to put forward a proposal to dissolve the state parliament and precipitate a new election.

Mysterious crossbow killings in Bavaria

Police are baffled at a spate of macabre deaths in the historic and otherwise peaceful city of Passau

Screenshot from Süddeutsche Zeitung’s website

A CRIME in the Bavarian city of Passau has horrified as much as mystified the police – and the general public. On Saturday morning, employees of a B&B in Unteröd, a district in Passau, found three bodies in one of the rooms. Two of the bodies, a 33-year-old woman and a 53-year-old man, were found in bed, holding hands. A third woman, aged 30, was lying on the floor. Two crossbows were also discovered in the room, and all three bodies had numerous bolts still in them. The state prosecutor’s office has called for an autopsy.

The man and woman in the bed both came from Rhineland-Palatinate; the woman on the floor from Lower Saxony. They had arrived together on Friday. It still isn’t clear what their relationship was. The B&B where they stopped was located in an idyllic verdant locality near a small river.

Screenshot from the Bayerischer Rundfunk (Bavarian Broadcasting Company) website

Since then, the police have announced today that they have discovered two more bodies, both women, this time in Lower Saxony. The flat, located in the town of Wittingen, was the home of one of the crime victims in Passau. No crossbows or bolts were found there; the cause of death is still unknown – or at least not yet made public. According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, one of the two women found in Wittingen may be the partner of the 30-year-old woman found in Passau.

Bavarian police are working feverishly to solve the mystery of this macabre case.

International Women’s Day Berlin

Berlin’s new bank holiday gives birth to a revealing performance

The Growler, aka artist Dee Mulrooney, appearing on stage in Berlin

It’s not every day you get to watch a giant vulva reveal itself on stage to the lilting tones of Ave Maria sung sean-nós. It was a tonic after a week of running after film clips, dodging the raindrops and asking for views on Berlin’s sparkling new International Women’s Day bank holiday. And where else but Berlin would you get it?

Apart from all the demonstrations, strikes, information days, breakfasts, there were evening parties and club events. This one, however, put together by Nina Hynes and Dee Mulrooney, two of the initiators and organisers of last year’s Craw Festival, nested itself in the intimate back room of the Wein-Salon in Berlin-Friedrichshain. Nina Hynes performed on a variety of instruments and sometimes belted, sometimes whispered out her own tunes about womanhood. For one song, she split the audience down the middle – the fault line cleaved between my husband and me – with one side panting out a rhythmic high E, the other chanting out a low “vul-va, vul-va, vul-va”. For those without a “vul-va”, Hynes suggested, they could share one with someone else – but only by invitation. 

Then she switched styles to the reverential, crooning Ave Maria – the cue for the Growler, aka Deirdre Mulrooney, who shed her Tizian-blue mantle to expose herself in wavy layers of red, complete with a nub of a pink cap. Her performance combined singing and stand-up, infused with a kind of native, feral spirituality. It had us in stitches – until she sang about the babies of Tuam.

Alongside the small stage – about the size of a Eur-palette – stood a candleholder, the accumulation of wax on it reminiscent of a cave encrusterd with stalagmites. In between there was an altar of sorts, decorated with votives of both the Virgin Mary and an embroidered vulva. In appearance they resembled each other to a surprising degree. But I’m sure Mary would have approved. She, too, had a vulva. Nobody really knows how Jesus got in there in the first place, but he almost certainly came out the usual way.

Thank God – or Mary – that you can still find venues and fringe acts like this in the middle of Berlin. In a world in which gentrification is closing down small neighbourhood venues, city-centre Berlin still has corners and back streets where you can stumble on to places like the Wein Salon. Or be initiated into by a friend. Irish artists have leapt into this haven and forged their place in it. The atmosphere is something like Greenwich Village ca. 1961 (I imagine in my fantasies, sadly not having been there to experience it). No better way to conclude Berlin’s first International Women’s Day holiday.

ŸŸŸTo see my video about Berlin’s new International Women’s Day holiday, click here

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