Voters in the German state of Thuringia are set to elect a new state parliament on Sunday. The electoral season has been marred by a rash of death threats against leading candidates.
The threats have made reference to past attempts to kill German politicians. Evidence appears to suggest that they are coming from far-right nationalists.
German media outlets reported this week that Mike Mohring, the head of the centre-right Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands (CDU)ticket in Thuringia, received an email from unnamed far-right figures telling him to suspend his campaign or he would be “stabbed to death like Cologne Mayor Henriette Reker, or a car bomb will go off”.
Reker, who is not a member of any party, was in fact stabbed in the neck by a far-right extremist shortly before her election in October 2015, however she survived the attack.
In a video he posted on Twitter, Mohring announced that he would continue his campaign.
Der Spiegel also recently reported that police searched a house in northern Thuringia after a 27-year-old man threatened to commit unnamed felonious acts against Green Party leader Robert Habeck during his state parliamentary election campaign.
And, finally, another house was searched due to death threats against Bodo Ramelow, the prime minister of Thuringia (roughly equivalent to a state governor in the United States).
Ramelow is a member of the left-wing Die Linke party. The man accused of threatening him is known to police as a 41-year-old right-wing extremist who recently purchased a gun. His house was searched because Ramelow was planning a campaign stop in his hometown.
All of this comes just a few months after a state politician in the neighbouring state of Hesse was shot to death in his own home by a long-time radical nationalist with close ties to the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) and less than two weeks after the attempted massacre of Jews at a synagogue on Yom Kippur in Halle.
The shooter failed to enter the synagogue but nonetheless shot and killed a passerby outside it before driving to a nearby Middle Eastern restaurant, where he shot and killed another victim. Halle is in Saxony-Anhalt, which also neighbours Thuringia.
Thuringia is the home state of Björn Höcke, the leader of the ethno-nationalist wing of Alternative for Germany (AfD), the largest far-right party in the country.
Höcke gained international notoriety in January 2017 when he gave a speech in Dresden in which he decried the Holocaust memorial in Berlin, calling Germany the only country in the world with a “monument of shame in the heart of its capital.” He leads the AfD ticket in the same Thuringian parliamentary race that Mohring and Habeck are competing in.
Last month’s parliamentary elections in the German states of Brandenburg and Saxony saw significant gains for AfD and observers are watching the Thuringian elections closely as the results may indicate if or to what extent its rise will continue.
In Brandenburg last month, the party won 23.5% of the votes (an 11.3% gain over the 2014 elections) despite revelations that state party leader Andreas Kalbitz had travelled to Greece with a group of neo-Nazis for a demonstration in 2007.
Kalbitz claims that he has severed ties with neo-Nazi groups, but the head of Germany’s national domestic security agency is skeptical.
The AfD also did well in Saxony, where it received 27.5% of the vote (a remarkable 17.8% increase over the 2014 elections) under state party chairman Jörg Urban, another leading member of AfD’s ethno-nationalist wing.
Recent polling has AfD at 20% in the Thuringen elections, putting them in third place after Die Linke (27%) and the Christian Democrats (26%).
Photograph courtesy of PantheraLeo/Wikimedia. Published under a Creative Commons license.