Angela Merkel has been re-elected as Germany’s Chancellor and, at the end of her new term, shall be the longest serving occupant of that office in Germany’s post-war history. However this achievement will likely be overshadowed by the arrival of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) into the Bundestag, the first far-right party to win parliamentary seats since 1960. The centre-left SPD did poorer than expected and the results begin to show a slight fragmentation of German politics away from the two main parties, the so-called volksparteien. The implications of this fragmentation will benefit minority parties but the significant advances for the AfD may mean that future discourse will be dominated by far-right voices.
On 25th September the people of Iraqi Kurdistan will vote on whether or not to secede from Iraq and become an independent nation-state. Unsurprisingly this has caused much consternation in both Baghdad and Ankara however analysts are nonetheless expecting a clear majority of Kurds to vote for independence. The problem facing the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) has been one of legitimacy as the Iraqi government have refused to legally permit a referendum from taking place, and therefore it would be unclear as to how the international community would react. This week the KRG and international Kurdish liberation movement received a boost from the man seeking to become Germany’s next Chancellor.
A few days ago German Chancellor Angela Merkel signaled that she may drop her opposition to a vote on marriage equality after she said at a debate that her party was discussing the issue at length. At this same debate Merkel argued that she favoured a conscience vote on the issue. Almost all the Chancellor’s political opponents support marriage equality and after her announcement sought to gain political capital from her decision. They pressured for a snap vote on the issue and, much to my surprise, she permitted one.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is often lauded in the Western press as an example of a strong national leader that proudly stands up for socially liberal values. This was most notably demonstrated by the approach many organisations took to her decision to welcome hundreds of thousands of refugees into Germany, much to the opposition of other EU states. However for advocates of LGBT equality there has always been a black rain cloud above Mrs Merkel when she is described in such glowingly positive terms as she and her party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) have always opposed the legalisation of same-sex marriage. The news yesterday was that the CDU may change this position.
In some European countries the idea of legal same-sex marriage is largely uncontroversial. For instance the Netherlands has had equal marriage since 2001, it being the first nation in the world to act. However the more eastward one travels, the more socially conservative countries appear to be on LGBT rights. I contend that 2017 will be an important year because it could be a watershed moment in the history of the European gay liberation movement. Evidently I may have been proven correct already as there has been progress in some parts of Europe in this very area. But even more can be made this year given the changes in public opinion in some European countries.
A week ago the German Development Minister Gerd Müller has suggested that in order to stem the flow of refugees coming from Africa, as well as enhance the economic prospects of these countries, an economic assistance programme modeled on the Marshall Plan should be implemented. The German Development Ministry have even said that in next few weeks they shall publish a report outlining how such a plan could be enacted. At this early stage the proposal would include measures to improve education and training, strengthen the rule of law, and provide massive amounts of employment.
The discourse around the refugee crisis has been incredibly depressing and has been sickening at times. Columnists have dehumanised these people and policy-makers have ignored them for political expedience. As a result the dominant ideology, when it comes to this issue specifically, is one that is incredibly right-wing. Across Europe right-wing populism has risen in popularity and the rhetoric towards refugees has been increasingly xenophobic. An example that is often given is the social problems that large numbers of refugees cause especially in Germany. Here is a story that puts a different complexion on this view.