Berlin (dpa) – bullies, provocations, rule violations – and now possibly also targeted law violations: with the arrival of the AfD in the Bundestag in 2017, the climate there has become significantly harsher . Provisional highlight: incidents during Wednesday’s infection protection law deliberations.
They started with an inadmissible poster campaign by the parliamentary group in the plenary hall and resulted in harassment and insults from politicians such as Economy Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU) by visitors invited by members of the ‘AfD.
It is events like this that make the first parliamentary director general of the FDP parliamentary group, Marco Buschmann, say: “The AfD is sabotaging the parliament”. Buschmann sits in the plenary hall next to AfD parliamentary group leaders Alice Weidel and Alexander Gauland. He hears a lot of things that can no longer be heard in the stands and on television. “The whispers, whistles and cries of the AfD parliamentary group are unbearable,” said the man from the FDP.
Often it doesn’t stop with the hissing sound. An example: when the Bundestag debated the 70th anniversary of the Basic Law in May last year, AfD MP Stephan Brandner – then still chairman of the Legal Committee – attacked Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was seated in the guest gallery. The rule of law is “ignored, folded and trampled” by other parties, says Brandner. And at almost all levels. “Let’s start at the top, with the head of state.” It will also be too much for Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU): he calls on Brandner to show moderation.
Women parliamentarians also report sexist seizures in the ranks of the AfD parliamentary group. Sometimes this happens quite overtly. When FDP defense politician Marie-Agnès Strack-Zimmermann is on the move with a black leather jacket, AfD MP Jürgen Braun asks her if she is pulling the whip – to which she replies: “Do you have a emergency at home? “
On Wednesday, the AfD is better. As Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) approaches the lectern, large parts of the parliamentary group in the plenary hall pull out white posters from behind their bench with the words “Basic Law”, above them a black ribbon with a cross and the date November 18, 2020. MEPs are reluctant to comply with Schäuble’s request to immediately end this action. This had been discussed beforehand.
The situation is different with visitors who at around the same time are aggressively addressing, harassing, filming and insulting MPs, including Economic Affairs Minister Altmaier, in the corridors of the Reichstag building. According to a security report from the Bundestag police, they also broke into a parliamentary office. According to the report, the four troublemakers, including Youtuber, were invited by the three AfD MPs, Udo Hemmelgarn, Petr Bystron and Hansjörg Müller.
AfD deputies had already acted on several occasions as workers for troublemakers, right-wing bloggers, citizen journalists who are friends of the AfD and alternative right-wing media. Among other things, the parliamentary group has already been invited twice to a “Free Media Congress” in the Bundestag. The purpose of these events was, among other things, to scourge what the AfD calls “mainstream journalism”.
Bystron announced Thursday that after an internal check it was found that one of the four people involved in the disruption had also been reported through his office manager without his knowledge. And when asked, Müller said he had three guests in his office. But they would have behaved “civilly”. Müller himself had sometimes taken part in the rally at the Brandenburg Gate. “I wasn’t the one who let in people who were playing bullies,” he says.
The leaders of the parliamentary groups Weidel and Gauland also expressed their regret on Thursday over the “unacceptable behavior” of visitors and at the same time affirmed: “At no time has the AfD parliamentary group invited guests to the Bundestag in the aim to disrupt the parliamentary process or to assist Members of Parliament to obstruct the exercise of their mandate. “
Can it really be that AfD MPs are inviting well-known visitors to a predictable explosive debate in the Bundestag, accompanied by massive street protests, regardless of what they are doing? The ignorance shown in retrospect might have a deeper reason: they may have made themselves criminals.
Bundestag Vice President Wolfgang Kubicki regards the incidents related to the vote on the infection protection law as a case of coercion. A criminal offense under Article 106 StGB (coercion exercised by the Federal President and members of a constitutional body), “which parliamentarians may also incite or encourage”, is considered. The FDP politician and experienced lawyer ask: “This will have to be seriously considered.” On Thursday, the Bundestag Council of Elders chose exactly this path.