All smiles in Saarland

Or why it's going wrong for the Greens

Dear Reader,

A video went viral on social media last week that aptly encapsulated the Green party’s woes since they took the lead in polling back in April.

Recorded at the party conference of the Saarland Greens, it shows one of the candidates for the party list for the national election.

The woman in the video was running for the second list seat and was taking questions from delegates.

“What is your position on bicycles?” the moderator asks at the start of the video. The candidate smiles and says “positive, very positive” to hearty applause. A silence then ensues before she adds “what do you want me to say to this question?”, apparently asking for help.

To the next question on how to combine social equality and climate protection, she smiles for a while before asking “can I have some time to think?” Another awkward silence is ended by the moderator, who poses a third question. Asked where she stands on C02 certificate trading, she just stands there looking lost.

It’s less surprising that an underqualified hopeful put herself up for election in a rural backwater, more so that she actually won the vote. She would have stood a good chance of entering the Bundestag had she not withdrawn her candidacy later in the week on the back of the negative attention the video drew.

That was just one remarkable event at a party conference that was by all accounts what the Greens would call a Super-GAU.

First, their state leader was humiliated when she failed to win a majority in three rounds of voting for the number one spot on the party list. Those loses came despite her facing no opponent.

When a man subsequently stood for the role of Spitzenkandidat, breaking the party’s women-first rules, he won a two-thirds majority. But the man in question in the ex-leader in Saarland, who has a history of dodgy dealing, and is widely believed to have gerrymandered and bullied his way to victory.

His victory unleashed a string of resignations, attempts to rerun the vote, and refusal by the youth movement to campaign for him.

The civil war in Saarland, which has made waves across the country, was the last thing that the party’s first ever Chancellor candidate, Annalena Baerbock, needed. She and co-leader Robert Habeck have put in painstaking work to rid the party of a reputation for amateurism and factionalism.

Baerbock and Habeck’s own missteps in recent weeks haven’t helped. But the Spring honeymoon, when the Greens were being talked up as better suited to the Chancellery than either of the old Volksparteien, is receding into memory.

In polling back in April they led the pack on 28 percent. They’ve since slipped back to 19 percent and the SPD are breathing down their necks.


Delta variant update

The Robert Koch Institute brings out its report on virus variants every Wednesday. Last week’s update showed that the Delta mutation (first identified in India) made up 13 percent of cases by June 20th, almost double the proportion from the week before, and up from around three percent the week before that.

This led to several newspapers using the words Delta, rasant and ausbreiten in one breath. See here, here or here.

How to square this with the news that one in ten districts hasn’t reported a single infection with any strain of the virus in the past week? Or the fact that the level of infection has halved (again) over the past ten days?

A closer look at the RKI report shows that the overall number of Delta cases is going up, but not nearly to the extent that the headlines might suggest. In the last week of May, 267 cases with the Delta variant were identified (1.6% of the total number); in the week ending June 20th, 344 cases were identified (13% of the total).

In other words, the proportional increase is explained by the rapid decline in cases with all other strains rather than an explosion of Delta cases. While reporting delays mean the numbers will go up next week, rasant ist die Ausbreitung (noch) nicht.


Murder in Würzburg

It is a scene that we have become all too familiar with in recent years. An apparently deranged man armed with a knife or gun attacking strangers with the intent of causing as much harm as possible.

The latest such tragedy took place in Würzburg, Bavaria, on Friday where a young man killed three people and injured several more with a large blade. He was only stopped through the brave actions of bystanders.

The fact that the attacker is from Somalia, coupled with reports that extremist literature has been found in his lodgings, point toward an Islamist motive.

But in recent memory, a native German man used his car to kill five pedestrians in the city of Trier, a US citizen shot at police officers in a Munich S-Bahn station, and a conspiracy theorist attacked shisha bars in a suburb of Frankfurt. I could go on.

Is an increase in mental illness caused by the stresses of modern society the root cause? Are the strains of multiculturalism fuelling extremism? Or does the fact that a mobile phone camera is always just a second away incentivize such public brutality?

All these theories have been put forward.

What one should remember though is that murder is becoming an ever more seldom phenomenon in Germany. While in 1994, some 1,500 cases of murder or manslaughter were recorded by the police; by 2015 that number had dropped to 565.

Wishing you a pleasant week,

Jörg Luyken