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Violence against German politicians almost doubles in five years, data shows

Damaged AfD poster in Berlin
Damaged AfD poster in Berlin Copyright Donogh McCabe
Copyright Donogh McCabe
By Liv Stroud
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Attacks on Green politicians have almost tripled in the past half-decade, whilst violence against AfD politicians has decreased by around 20%. However, they're still the most common target, according to statistics.

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The campaign for the European elections is in full swing in Germany but has been overshadowed by recent attacks on politicians. The violence has been fuelling the debate on whether democracy is under threat. 

Last month, politician Matthias Ecke from the Social Democrats (SPD) spent several days in hospital after being beaten up whilst hanging up campaign posters. 

Green politicians have also experienced a recent spike in threats. While campaigning, German Greens candidate Yvonne Mosler was spat on and threatened last week.

She said she has noticed how the attitude towards politicians has changed recently.

"It is no longer the case, as it was before, that people simply say, 'no, I'm not interested.' Now, there are repeated verbal assaults. There are insults, stupid remarks, and not just disinterest, but also open aggression," Mosler told Euronews.

Mosler added that although she was shocked, she will continue to campaign, perhaps in groups of threes or fours.

"We will think very carefully about how and where we campaign. And that is already sad. It is indeed the case that we say, okay, there are simply certain streets or areas that appear too dangerous to us, where we either, for example, no longer do door-to-door campaigning at all or where we can only go in very large groups. And that's actually regrettable," she explained.

Not just violent attacks

Mosler says the violence is not just physical but also against property and added that in her constituency, "over half of the posters have been destroyed". 

"One week, one and a half weeks after putting them up, and I believe there is absolutely no sense of wrongdoing here, that this is an interference with the democratic process." 

She is calling for speedier proceedings in these cases — particularly her own, as the perpetrators are still at large and may not be prosecuted until the election campaign is over.

"Democracy means that citizens have a choice between different parties and that these parties have the opportunity to present themselves to the citizens. And democracy reaches its limits where it encounters violence. So if I use violence to prevent parties from campaigning or force them to restrict their campaigning because I say no, you are obliged, you can only go out in large groups, you have to protect yourselves."

Green politicians are often the target with hatred and agitation on the internet, and will step up reporting these acts to the authorities. In 2023, the Greens reported 947 insult offences, compared to 391 the previous year.

But the AfD experiences the most physical violence. In 2023, the AfD faced 86 violent attacks, compared to 62 from the Greens.

AfD MP Beatrix von Storch said that violence is something that the AfD is facing "on a daily basis". 

AfD violence 'accepted'

"It's happening to all of us. It can happen to all of us. And this is an ongoing story for years now. So it has happened not only recently but also years ago. On my end, I've also been physically attacked. My car has been burned," von Storch told Euronews.

She said party members of the AfD don't feel supported when talking about the violent attacks or threats made against them and that violence against the AfD is accepted.

"It's happening to us all the time and people are not paying attention to it. And I think if you're really in and you're worrying about democracy, you should address violence against politicians, no matter if it's against the AfD member or SPD."

The parliamentarian also warned that violence against politicians, regardless of their political views, is a danger to democracy and condemned the attack against SPD politician Ecke, who she said had been putting up campaign posters alone. 

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"We would never go out and do posters on our own," von Storch said.

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