We use cookies to provide some features and experiences in QOSHE

More information  .  Close
Aa Aa Aa
- A +

East Germany Is Still a Country of Its Own

1 8 0
07.07.2021

DESSAU-ROSSLAU, Germany—Earlier this summer, on the eve of regional elections in the eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt, German politician Marco Wanderwitz was asked about the region’s strong support for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

Wanderwitz, the German government’s special commissioner for eastern Germany, attributed the AfD’s successes in the east to the region’s authoritarian past and said he believes only a small fraction of those voters are “potentially recoverable” for mainstream parties like his center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

DESSAU-ROSSLAU, Germany—Earlier this summer, on the eve of regional elections in the eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt, German politician Marco Wanderwitz was asked about the region’s strong support for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

Wanderwitz, the German government’s special commissioner for eastern Germany, attributed the AfD’s successes in the east to the region’s authoritarian past and said he believes only a small fraction of those voters are “potentially recoverable” for mainstream parties like his center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

“We are dealing with people who are partially socialized by dictatorship in such a way that they have not reached democracy, even after 30 years,” Wanderwitz told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Cue immediate outrage. Many in the region immediately blasted Wanderwitz’s comments as ill-informed and condescending—and saw them as only the latest dismissal of eastern German voters in a country where they often feel undervalued and misunderstood by the government or their counterparts in the west.

The resulting scandal underscored the outsized and often fraught role eastern Germany plays in Germany’s national political conversation. It’s been more than three decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification. But the five eastern German states, often still referred to as the neue Bundesländer or “new states”—Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia—still vote very differently than their western counterparts, a fact that could impact September’s federal elections.

Those electoral differences have come into clearer focus in recent years with the rise of the grassroots anti-Islam PEGIDA movement in 2014 (which is based primarily in Saxony) and the last round of federal elections in 2017, when the east helped propel the AfD into the Bundestag for the first time. As a result, the region has frequently been portrayed as Germany’s electoral problem child.

“[In 1989, East Germans] demonstrated for free elections, for freedom of speech, for freedom of travel. … In other words, people in [East Germany] fought for their own right to democracy,” said Cerstin Gammelin, deputy Berlin bureau chief of the Süddeutsche Zeitung. “But once the wall fell, all of the West German structures were brought over, and suddenly, the eastern Germans were just the losers.”

“It’s such a........

© Foreign Policy


Get it on Google Play