The short scene takes place in a Bundestag canteen. The former environment minister Barbara Hendricks from the SPD describes them at the lectern. An employee from the ranks of the AfD parliamentary group noticed that “someone else was ordering a vegetarian dish,” Hendricks reports. The AfD employee then said: “We’ll get you too, you grain eaters.”
It’s a scene that, taken in isolation, may seem trivial. But the threat in the canteen fits like a piece of the puzzle into the picture that the other parliamentary groups are drawing of the AfD this Friday in the Bundestag.
The occasion is the current hour requested by the Union and SPD on the AfD-related troublemakers who were in parliament on Wednesday. During the Bundestag debate on the reform of the Infection Protection Act, MPs in the hallways of the Reichstag building were harassed, filmed and insulted by AfD visitors.
The other groups agree: the incident broke a taboo, it has a “new quality”. But the debate on this is also a general settlement of the other groups with the AfD. It seems as if the anger breaks out over all the provocations, taboos and disturbances of the past few years. And that includes scenes like Hendricks’ with the “grain eaters”.
“Attack on the free mandate”
The parliamentary manager of the Union parliamentary group, Michael Grosse-Brömer, will kick off this Friday. The incidents on Wednesday were an “attack on the free mandate” and on parliamentary democracy. “A vote should be influenced by coercion.”
[Lesen Sie hier bei Tagesspiegel Plus: „Allianz mit dem radikalen Protest: Wie sich die AfD dem Querdenker-Milieu andient“.]
For a long time, the AfD has been trying to hinder the sessions, to damage the reputation of parliament. “You don’t care. For you it’s about showmanship, about fodder for your channels. This lectern is the backdrop for your video clips for you alone, ”calls out Grosse-Brömer. But the incidents on Wednesday are the previous “low point of a lasting strategy of the AfD in this house.”
“A climate of threat”
The AfD parliamentary group tries to downplay what happened in terms of its importance. Group leader Alexander Gauland admits that the behavior of the troublemakers was “uncivilized”. “I apologize for that.” The AfD parliamentary group should have “supervised these visitors”. But you couldn’t have expected something like that to happen. The allegation that his group knew in advance about the plans of the troublemakers is “infamous”.
And Gauland goes over to the counterattack: Activists of the climate movement “Extinction Rebellion” have already distributed flyers in the Bundestag. But these were apparently “good disruptors”. Gauland accuses the other groups of using double standards. The fact that there is a difference between harassment and distribution of flyers does not play a role in Gauland’s speech.
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What exactly the AfD’s taboo break, the “new quality” consists of, is clear to the parliamentary manager of the FDP, Marco Buschmann. He quotes the constitutional lawyer Hans Kelsen. He warned against the “weapons of the enemies of democracy” in parliament.
On the one hand, this includes “technical obstruction”: that is, formal means by which sand is thrown into the gears. “Mass ballots, mutton jumps, strange procedural motions” – the AfD has already tried all of this.
In addition, there is the “physical obstruction” – that means “by noise, violence and a climate of threats prevent parliamentarians from their work”. Buschmann believes that this has now happened. “The AfD went from a technical obstruction to a physical obstruction for the first time, and that is unheard of.”
Greens see concerted action
The parliamentary manager of the Greens, Britta Haßelmann, expresses herself similarly: The people allowed into the house by the AfD would have wanted to prevent the elected MPs from exercising their free mandate. “Anyone who tries to intimidate members of parliament is attacking our democracy and that is a taboo in this house.”
Haßelmann also accused the AfD of wanting to fool the public with their assertions that the behavior of the visitors was not predictable. “We know that: when things get tough, they don’t know anything or they cry crocodile tears.” From Haßelmann’s point of view, however, it was a “concerted action”, “part of the AfD strategy”.
[Mehr zum Thema: Bündnis von Corona-Skeptikern und Verfassungsfeinden – der Staat muss gegenüber der AfD endlich Härte zeigen]
And the SPD woman Hendricks describes how the AfD has changed the climate from her point of view. AfD employees would intimidate others. “Colleagues from other groups no longer dare to be out in the corridors late in the evening.” It is not the first time that this accusation has been made. The AfD has always denied threats and harassment from its employees.
The disruptions from their visitors will probably hang around the AfD for a long time. The AfD parliamentary group is apparently aware of this. At a special meeting, she decided to write a letter of apology to Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble, to be signed by MPs Petr Bystron and Udo Hemmelgarn – the two had invited the guests.
And in other respects, too, it’s not a good week for the AfD: After an urgent decision by the Berlin Administrative Court, employees of the AfD parliamentary group are not exempt from the mask requirement in the Bundestag. The court rejected an urgent motion by nine AfD employees against the general order of Bundestag President Schäuble.