Neo-Nazi NPD co-opts 1989 slogan in bid for re-election

 

IN 1989 East Germans took to the streets and, with their chant, “Wir Sind das Volk!” (“We are the people!”), they toppled the Berlin Wall.

Two decades on, Germany’s neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD) has co-opted the slogan to boost its chances in Sunday’s state election in Saxony.

Five years ago, the party was elected to the parliament in Dresden with 9.4 per cent of the vote.

Shocked officials from other parties suggested it was a one-off protest vote against social-welfare reforms.

This time around, opinion polls put the party just above 5 per cent: a drop in support, but enough to return to parliament. That would be a first for the 45-year-old extremist party and a worrying signal for the other parties in Saxony. “The peaceful revolution got stuck along the way,” says an NPD flyer, “the people got a political system that dances to the tune of capital and the EU.”

Since 2004, the party has concentrated on Saxony: its efforts have failed elsewhere in the country and its national wing in Berlin faces bankruptcy after being defrauded by its own accountant.

Outside big Saxon cities such as Dresden and Leipzig, in smaller towns and villages blighted by unemployment, the party has established jobless drop-in centres and youth groups.

Here the party has discarded its Nazi ideology. Local officials wear suits, not bomber jackets, and turn conversations with locals about welfare cuts and unemployment to foreign criminals.

“The NPD likes to present itself as the party of the little man and using the 20-year-old slogan may touch on something with these voters,” said Prof Andreas Anter, political scientist at the University of Leipzig.

Few political observers expected the Saxon NPD to still exist by this election after a disastrous term in parliament.

A year after the 2004 election, three MPs resigned the party whip, while a fourth was thrown out for making Hitler remarks and bringing a gun into parliament.

A fifth MP, a driving instructor by profession, died in a car crash while a sixth man, a young party hopeful, landed in court on child pornography charges.

“These are people no one would want to buy a second-hand car from, let alone vote for,” said Prof Anter.

“If they get back into parliament, it will be in spite of, not because of, their politicians.”