Elections: Interior ministers discuss more protection after attack on Ecke

After violent attacks such as those on the Saxon SPD European politician Matthias Ecke, the federal and state interior ministers are discussing more protection for elected officials and other politically active people.

Elections: Interior ministers discuss more protection after attack on Ecke

After violent attacks such as those on the Saxon SPD European politician Matthias Ecke, the federal and state interior ministers are discussing more protection for elected officials and other politically active people. Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) and the state department heads will meet in a video conference in the early evening.

The chairman of the Interior Ministers' Conference, Brandenburg's department head Michael Stübgen (CDU), invited people to attend following a suggestion from Faeser. The Brandenburg Interior Ministry said it was about discussing possible measures to prevent similar attacks.

Ecke is the Saxon SPD's leading candidate for the European elections and was beaten up last week by four teenagers aged 17 and 18 when he tried to put up election posters for his party. The Saxony State Criminal Police Office (LKA) attributes at least one of the suspects in the attack to the right-wing spectrum. The four suspected perpetrators have been identified. The incident caused horror across the country. In the past few days there have also been attacks on politicians from the Greens and the AfD.

Saxony wants to pass a Federal Council initiative

The Saxon cabinet wants to approve a Federal Council initiative this morning to tighten penalties for attacks on politicians and election workers. State Interior Minister Armin Schuster announced this on the ARD “Tagesthemen”. We need a new criminal offense in the criminal code for threatening officials, elected officials and volunteers," said the CDU politician.

Saxony's Justice Minister Katja Meier (Greens) emphasized in the "Tagesspiegel" that a paragraph should be introduced into the criminal code that makes "influencing state decision-makers" a punishable offense. Meier was optimistic that the other states and the federal government will join Saxony's Federal Council initiative. “There is a lot of approval from the state interior ministers,” she said. Schuster called on Federal Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) to get involved in this regard.

Networking between police and volunteers

Schuster also announced the establishment of a communication channel in the Saxon Ministry of the Interior where spontaneous actions can be reported. Volunteers often go out spontaneously, which makes it difficult for the police to protect them. “We want to get closer to the election workers, but to do that they have to navigate us a bit,” said Schuster. There is already a contact point in the LKA for planned election campaigns. It was set up for the parties so that the police could prepare for it.

Schuster expects that the judiciary will take into account, when determining the sentence, that this is not just a case of dangerous bodily harm, but also a serious attack on free elections. "The rule of law must show its teeth here," stressed the CDU politician.

SPD federal leader Saskia Esken reacted cautiously to the proposal to include threatening public officials or volunteers as a criminal offense in the criminal code. “What Mr. Schuster is suggesting is a kind of privileging of certain people,” she said on MDR-Aktuell. Excluding parts of the population from this protection is difficult to imagine. It is also unclear who exactly is meant by officials or volunteers. "I find that very difficult."

Stricter penalties called for attacks during election campaigns

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach also called for harsher penalties for threatening politicians. He told the newspaper "Neue Westfälische" that one could "make laws and significantly increase sentences to punish violence against local politicians more harshly. You have to work with deterrence when it comes to punishments. If we want local politics to still work, then we have to people protect."

Brandenburg's Prime Minister Dietmar Woidke (SPD) called for a signal of strength before the Interior Ministers' Conference. “To be afraid or to allow oneself to be intimidated would be exactly the wrong signal,” said Woidke, who is also state chairman of the Brandenburg SPD, to the German Press Agency. "That's exactly what shouldn't happen." The open discourse must continue. Woidke is calling for a consistent reaction from the interior ministers: "I expect a signal to come that the existing legal framework is being fully exploited, and that we may also be able to achieve faster procedures in this area," he told RBB.

Politicians from the Union and the Greens called on the Conference of Interior Ministers to ensure better protection for election campaigners by the police. “In some places, not only events, but also the hanging of election posters will have to be closely coordinated with the police and, if necessary, accompanied by them,” said the deputy chairwoman of the Union parliamentary group, Andrea Lindholz (CSU), to the dpa.

The Interior Minister should not just express his dismay. She brought a possible tightening of criminal law into play. "Politicians are particularly protected against insults with an increased penalty limit, but not against physical injuries." That also needs to be put to the test.

"We know where you live and where your children go to school"

The parliamentary managing director of the Green parliamentary group, Irene Mihalic, warned the interior department heads not to part ways after their conference without concrete agreements. Above all, the ministers must discuss “how the federal and state governments can organize sufficient police forces to adequately secure upcoming election campaign events.” The Green politician called for “a precise analysis of the possible mobilization of such attacks and a clear concept for suitable protective measures.”

The German Association of Cities also believes that tightening criminal law is appropriate. President Markus Lewe told the newspapers of the Funke media group: "Stalking, demonstrations in front of residential buildings and threats such as 'We know where you live and where your children go to school' must be punishable. That belongs in the criminal code." Lewe, who is the mayor of Münster, also called for special public prosecutors to be able to "act more quickly and more precisely."

IMK chairman Stübgen warned against excessive expectations of the police. “Violence and agitation in our society do not only affect domestic politics. Brutality and disinhibition are a problem for the entire society,” said the CDU politician to the “Rheinische Post” (Tuesday). "Anyone who expects the police to be able to solve all problems is ignoring the challenges we face."

Reul does not believe in comprehensive protection for politicians

North Rhine-Westphalia Interior Minister Herbert Reul does not believe that the protection of politicians can be significantly improved through more police presence. "It's crazy to believe that we can observe all politicians individually," said Reul on Tuesday in the "Morgenecho" on WDR 5. "It's not possible from the quantity alone," said Reul. "There are tens of thousands of them." There aren't that many police officers, especially since they also have to do everything else.

Added to this: "I don't want a society like that where there's a police officer next to every politician on the street. It's bad enough when I have them around me." We shouldn't allow ourselves to be driven crazy now, said the CDU politician: "We mustn't let a few crazy people destroy our society and our way of doing politics and organizing democracy and talking to each other and being close to the citizens. "