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Public support for Sarrazin puts politicians in spin

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Public support for Sarrazin puts politicians in spin
What to do? Wulff and Merkel. Photo: DPA
12:13 CEST+02:00
Nearly a fifth of Germans would vote for a political protest party headed by Thilo Sarrazin, a poll revealed on Sunday, as mainstream politicians argue about how best to react to his statements on Muslims, immigration and Jews.

The survey, conducted by Emnid pollsters for the Bild am Sonntag newspaper, showed that 18 percent of Germans would vote for a political party headed by the Bundesbank board member.

He has created a furore in Germany with assertions about Muslim immigrants to Germany failing to integrate, and what he insists is a genetic element to intelligence – and the astounding proposal that people of a common religion are genetically related.

His theory is that genetically stupid immigrants are making Germany increasingly stupid as they are multiplying faster than Germans – and refusing to integrate into German society.

These kind of ideas seem to be welcomed by many conservative voters, with 17 percent of Christian Democrat Union (CDU) or Christian Social Union (CSU) voters telling pollsters they would vote for him if he were to establish a political party.

He appears to be even more popular among left-wing Die Linke supporters, with 29 percent saying they would vote for him.

The Social Democratic Party (SPD) is trying to throw Sarrazin out, although he says he loves the party and intends to remain a member. Yet its efforts to get rid of him are only damaging its image, according to Manfred Güllner, head of another pollster firm, Forsa.

He said the focus on Sarrazin – who used to be state finance senator for Berlin – could cost the SPD dear in next year's Berlin state election.

“The SPD is spending so much energy on the exclusion of Sarrazin, but not on the concerns, fears and needs of the Berliners,” Güllner told the Berlin Kurier paper on Sunday.

He said Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit looks particularly bad for his attacks on Sarrazin, having worked with him in the capital's government. “He supported him for years and used his abilities. Now he is damning him. It is not believable.”

Leading conservative politicians this weekend called for a more open discussion of integration policy, with some criticising Chancellor Angela Merkel for her dismissive attitude towards Sarrazin's comments.

She described them as ‘completely unacceptable' and has added to pressure for him to be dismissed from his post at the Bundesbank.

Yet Bavaria state interior minister Joachim Herrmann of the CSU said, “It would be wrong to now damn everything that Sarrazin says.”

Some of Sarrazin's theories were awful, he said, but added, “But where there are problems, we clearly have to address them.”

Head of the CDU's Baden-Württemberg state parliamentary party, Peter Hauk, also said that many Union supporters very much agreed with what Sarrazin had been saying. It would not be acceptable to simply criticise him, said Hauk. Instead the Berlin CDU leadership should more clearly identify problems with immigration and take tougher action on integration policies, he said.

Even Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, from the CSU, called for an intensive investigation of Sarrazin's theories. An open, broad discussion was needed, he said, adding that the issues that Sarrazin had described were important to people in Germany.

The Bundesbank has armed itself with legal opinion in its preparation to try to remove Sarrazin from the board. According to Der Spiegel magazine this weekend, it has a 20-page report on Sarrazin's public comments since he took office in 2009.

His interviews and the reaction to them during the last year or so will be used to show he has broken his employment contract, which stipulates that he must remain moderate and reserved in relation to the public in order to preserve the dignity of the job.

Federal President Christian Wulff is considering the Bundesbank's request for him to dismiss Sarrazin – something he has already signalled his willingness to do.

Yet Sarrazin has already taken the initiative in this matter, calling for a personal audience with the president.

“The federal president will have to consider very carefully, whether he wants to carry out a kind of political show trial, which would later be quashed by the courts,” he said in Focus magazine.

It was also reported this weekend that Sarrazin had informed his colleagues on the Bundesbank board in writing last month that he was about to publish his controversial book Deutschland schafft sich ab - Wie wir unser Land aufs Spiel setzen, or “Abolishing Germany - How we're putting our country at jeopardy.”

The report in the Bild am Sonntag newspaper said that neither Bundesbank president Axel Weber nor other board members reacted to the letter, or found out about the content of the book.

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