Wave of attacks against politicians in Germany

Both governing and opposition parties report that their members and supporters have been subjected to a surge of physical and verbal assaults in recent months.

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A prominent Berlin politician was violently assaulted, sustaining injuries to her head and neck. This incident marks another assault on elected officials, heightening concerns over political violence in Germany.

Franziska Giffey, the city’s economic head, former mayor, and ex-federal minister, was attacked at a library event in Berlin on Tuesday. An assailant approached her from behind and struck her with a bag containing a heavy object, police stated.

Giffey was hospitalized and treated for neck and head pain. A 74-year-old man was apprehended, and his residence is being searched by authorities. The suspect, known to the police, was detained, though his motives remain undisclosed.

Berlin’s Mayor, Kai Wegner, vehemently denounced the attack.

Later on Wednesday, Giffey, flanked by bodyguards, told reporters at a public event in Berlin that she felt well but emphasized, “we must also ensure living in a country where those with political and social responsibilities can move freely.”

Last week, a candidate from German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s party was physically attacked in Dresden while campaigning for the upcoming European Parliament elections and required surgery.

Authorities arrested four suspects aged 17 to 18, noting that the same group appeared to have assaulted a Green Party worker minutes before attacking Matthias Ecke. At least one teenager had connections to far-right groups, security officials reported.

Also on Tuesday, a 47-year-old Green politician was attacked by two individuals while putting up campaign posters in Dresden, dpa reported.

These incidents have stoked political tensions in Germany.

Both governing and opposition parties report that their members and supporters have been subjected to a surge of physical and verbal assaults in recent months, calling for increased police protection for politicians and electoral rallies.

A European Parliament report in February revealed a total of 2,790 attacks against elected representatives in 2023. Green Party representatives disproportionately suffered with 1,219 cases, compared to 478 for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, and 420 for the SPD.

Following a special meeting of the 16 state interior ministers on the issue of violence, Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser announced on Tuesday that measures such as toughening the German penal code to “more severely punish anti-democratic acts” were being considered.

Many incidents have occurred in the country’s former communist east, where Scholz’s government is highly unpopular. Saxony’s Interior Ministry reported 112 election-related crimes this year, including 30 against elected officials.

Traditional parties have accused AfD of having ties to violent neo-Nazi groups and fostering a climate of political intimidation. One of its leaders, Bjoern Hoecke, is currently on trial for using an illegal Nazi slogan.

Alternative for Germany (AfD), campaigning against immigration and European integration, is expected to gain seats in the European Parliament and in the autumn elections in Saxony and two other eastern German states.

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