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‘Bullet holes’ found in window of Halle politician’s office

German MP Karamba Diaby reported finding "bullet holes" in the windows of his constituency office Wednesday, prompting outrage and alarm that the country's politicians are facing increasing levels of intimidation and violence.

'Bullet holes' found in window of Halle politician's office
Karamba Diaby is an SPD politician in Halle near Leipzig. Photo: DPA

Diaby, a lawmaker for the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), posted about the attack on Twitter, saying police and security services were investigating and attaching a photo showing three impact points on a pane of glass.

“One window with my face on it has several bullet holes,” he said.

Diaby represents the eastern German city of Halle, near Leipzig, where an anti-Semitic attack at a synagogue last year left two people dead.

Citing police sources, news site Spiegel Online reported that the projectiles did not penetrate the second pane in the double-glazed window.

Investigators believe the attackers may have used an “airsoft” gun firing small plastic pellets, usually used for wargames similar to paintball.

Foreign Minister and party colleague Heiko Maas tweeted that the suspected attack was “unbelievable, disgusting and cowardly”.

“We will continue standing by your side for a free, tolerant and diverse democracy,” he added.

READ ALSO: Meet the Halle politician continuing to challenge stereotypes of eastern Germany

Mounting violence

The incident comes as German politicians at all levels increasingly become targets of violence, with police statistics suggesting that most suspects were linked to the far right.

Police figures gathered by weekly Welt am Sonntag this week showed significant increases in such acts in many of Germany's 16 states last year.

Attacks on politicians and officials in Thuringia and Saxony, both neighbouring states to Diaby's home in Saxony-Anhalt, more than doubled year-on-year, to 101 and 197 respectively.

Last year, local politician Walter Lübcke was shot dead at his home in Hesse state.

The prime suspect in the killing has far-right beliefs.

There have been three high-profile resignations by mayors in recent months after death threats and attacks on their cars, in western states Bavaria and Lower Saxony as well as Saxony in the former communist east.

And one mayor in North Rhine-Westphalia has made headlines in recent days after applying for a license to carry a weapon in self-defence.

Police said Wednesday they had also been called out to the Thuringia state parliament, where Björn Höcke, a prominent member of the far-right AfD party, received a letter full of powder that later proved to be harmless.

Against the odds

Born in Senegal, Diaby moved to then-communist East Germany in the 1980s after winning a scholarship to study there.

In a 2017 interview with AFP, he recalled experiencing racism both before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification in 1989-90, suffering a beating from neo-Nazis in 1991.

But he went on to get his doctorate in chemistry, marry a German, and in 2001 obtained German nationality.

He has represented Halle since 2013, defending his seat in 2017 even as far-right, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) entered parliament for the first time.

By Tom Barfield

  

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SPD

Germany edges a step closer to a government led by the Social Democrats

The Social Democrats' Olaf Scholz said that his party together with the Greens and the Free Democrats had a "mandate" to form a government in Germany, after the parties agreed to begin coalition talks.

The SPD's chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz speaks to reporters in Berlin on Wednesday.
The SPD's chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz speaks to reporters in Berlin on Wednesday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

“Voters have given us a mandate to build a government together,” Scholz told journalists after the Greens and the liberal FDP agreed to meet his party Thursday to begin discussions over a possible three-way coalition.

The move brings Scholz a step closer to the chancellery after 16 years of Merkel’s centre-right-led government.

The political upheaval in Germany was unleashed by last month’s general election which Scholz’s centre-left party won with 25.7 percent, followed by Merkel’s centre-right CDU-CSU bloc at 24.1 percent.

For either party to head the next German government it would need the support of the centre-left Greens and the pro-innovation and business Free Democrats (FDP), which came third and fourth.

Despite leading the conservatives to their worst-ever election result, beleaguered CDU leader Armin Laschet insisted he still has a shot at the top job.

Speaking to reporters, Laschet said the conservatives “respect the decision” by the two kingmaker parties to pursue a coalition with the SPD.

But the CDU-CSU is “still ready to hold talks,” he said.

READ ALSO: German coalition talks – Greens want to govern with Social Democrats and FDP

CSU leader Markus Söder however gave a more sobering assessment, saying the possibility of a CDU-CSU government had essentially been “rejected”.

The conservative bloc must now prepare itself for a stint in opposition after four Merkel-led coalitions, he said.

“This will change our country,” Söder said, adding: “The conservatives will enter a new era too.”

Recent surveys suggest most Germans want Scholz, who is also finance minister and vice chancellor, to become the next leader of Germany.

‘Building bridges’ 

Green co-leader Annalena Baerbock said that after preliminary discussions with the SPD and CDU-CSU, the Greens “believe it makes sense” to focus on a tie-up led by the Social Democrats.

Baerbock said Germany faced “great challenges” and needed “a new beginning”.

“This country can’t afford a lengthy stalemate,” she said.

READ ALSO: 10 German words you need to know to keep up with the coalition talks

Greens co-leaders Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck give a press conference on Wednesday after exploratory talks.
Greens co-leaders Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck give a press conference on Wednesday after exploratory talks. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

The FDP said it had accepted the Greens’ proposal to move on to formal exploratory coalition talks with the SPD.

The first such three-way talks will start on Thursday, FDP leader Christian Lindner said.

The Greens and the FDP are not natural bedfellows, diverging on key issues including taxation, climate protection and public spending.

But both parties have said they also have common ground and want to “build bridges” in order to govern.

All sides are eager to avoid a repeat of the 2017 election aftermath, when the FDP dramatically walked out of coalition talks with the conservatives and the Greens and it took months for a new government to take shape.

 ‘Not a done deal’

A tie-up of the SPD, Greens and FDP, which would be a first in Germany, has been dubbed a “traffic light” constellation after the parties’ red, green and yellow colours.

READ ALSO:

Green co-leader Robert Habeck said that while the party shared some common ground with the conservatives, there are “significant differences” too.

Informal talks over the last few days revealed “more overlap” with the Social Democrats, he said, on issues like climate protection, social justice and European integration.

The clear preference for a Scholz-led government is likely to put further pressure on Laschet, whose political future hangs in the balance.

Gaffe-prone Laschet, once seen as a shoo-in for the chancellery, fell out of favour with voters after he was caught laughing during a tribute to victims of Germany’s deadly floods in July.

The FDP however threw Laschet a lifeline by stressing that the conservatives were not out of the running yet.

The FDP’s Lindner said a coalition with the CDU-CSU and the Greens – dubbed a “Jamaica” alliance because the parties’ colours match that country’s
flag – “remains a viable option for us”.

The FDP has served as the junior partner in a conservative-led government before, and they share a dislike for tax hikes, red tape and a relaxation of Germany’s strict debt rules.

Green co-leader Habeck also cautioned that “nothing is a done deal yet”.

Merkel herself is bowing out of politics, although she will stay on in a caretaker capacity throughout the coalition haggling.

By Michelle FITZPATRICK

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