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Deadlock over Bundestag seating, as liberals refuse place next to AfD

The German constitution dictates that a new parliament's first session has to take place no later than 30 days after the election. But the parties still can’t decide on who is sitting where.

Deadlock over Bundestag seating, as liberals refuse place next to AfD
Photo: DPA

The seating order in the 18th Bundestag (2013-2017) was simple. Die Linke, the successor party to the East German communists, went on the far left. The Social Democrats sat next to them, the Greens went in the middle, and Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Union went on the right. The seating thus reflected the parties’ positions on the political spectrum.

But things have been complicated for the 19th Bundestag by the arrival in parliament of the Free Democrats (FDP) and the far-right Alternative for Germany. While no one is disputing that the AfD will be seated on the very right of the plenum, conflict has arisen over where the FDP should go.

At a meeting held on Wednesday, representatives of all six parties met to thrash out the seating order. But no consensus could be met after the FDP rejected the plan to put them next to the AfD.

The pro-business party are determined to be placed in the centre of the Bundestag.

FDP MP Marco Buschmann told Spiegel that the party “belongs in the middle of the parliament” and that sitting there is a question of “great symbolic importance.”

The FDP have pointed to the fact that in state parliaments they have traditionally sat in the middle between the Green party and the Christian Union. On the other hand, the last time they were represented in the national parliament they sat to the right of Angela Merkel's Union.

Party representatives will meet again on October 13th to try and find a solution to the deadlock.

At the national election on September 24th the AfD won 12.6 percent of the vote, making them the third largest party in the Bundestag. It is the first time that a party further to the right on the political spectrum than the Christian Union has made it into the parliament since the late 1940s.

Despite the FDP and the CDU talking tough during election campaigning on the AfD's main political focal point – immigration – neither party is keen to be associated with the upstart party.

Both FDP and Christian Union have ruled out forming a coalition with the AfD. As the SPD have also ruled out joining the next government, a coalition deal between the Union, the FDP and the Green party is the only viable option.

SEE ALSO: These 7 quotes perfectly sum up the German election

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POLITICS

How successful was Germany’s latest ‘Warning Day’?

For Germany's second emergency 'Warning Day' Thursday, all cell phones were set to sound off at 11am, but many stayed silent. Here's the verdict from the country's latest attempt to check its emergency systems.

How successful was Germany's latest 'Warning Day'?

Using so-called cell broadcast technology for the first time, all cell phone users in Germany with a German phone number were to receive a blaring emergency notification for the second Warntag (warning day). This was to test how well they would be alerted to an actual urgent situation, such as flash flooding or a blackout.

The technology sends out alerts regardless of the phone provider or if a person is signed up for them. Even if their phone is switched to silent mode, phone users receive a loud buzzing notification that’s hard to ignore.

READ ALSO: All cell phone users in Germany to be part of disaster ‘warning day’

But on Thursday at 11 am that was not the case for everyone.

According to initial information from the BKK, many Telekom customers in particular did not receive the warnings.

Another warning day is already planned for September of next year, in what will now be an annual test.

Deactivated test warnings in the phones’ system settings could also be a reason for the phones remaining silent. Many older models, such as the iPhone 6 or devices with Android 10, are also unable to use cell broadcast.

But the day was still deemed a “success”, according to BKK President Ralph Tiesler in a statement.

“According to preliminary findings, the nationwide Warning Day 2022 was a success!” said Tiesler. “The interaction of the individual systems has worked and people have become aware of the important topic of warnings. It is still too early for conclusive results. 

“We will now evaluate the feedback and thus be able to further optimize the systems. There’s still room for improvement.”

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) called the test “an important step” in improving how well people in Germany are protected in an emergency. 

People around Germany can also chime in with how well the test worked – or didn’t – using an official survey: https://warntag-umfrage.de/

Other warnings 

Even the warning apps Katwarn or NINA didn’t show an alert for all users, or only did 20 minutes past the 11am deadline.

Around Germany sirens sounded off, billboards flashed warnings at train stations and, in some communities, emergency vehicles drove through the streets broadcasting the test warning.

But some cities – including larger ones like Berlin – stayed particularly silent as they are not yet connected to a Modular Warning System. 

Berlin was also set to have 400 sirens installed by the end of 2022, although only 20 of them had been installed by August, according to the Tagesspiegel.

The importance of reliable warning systems was highlighted by the flood disaster in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia in July 2021, when people were not informed in time of the impending danger. Afterwards, a broad debate arose on how this could be improved.

Amid an energy crisis and war within Europe, many people are also hypervigilant about what Germany would do in the event of a wide-reaching emergency.

For previous emergencies, local authorities have relied upon sirens, loudspeaker announcements or radio and TV bulletins to warn residents of acute danger or issue evacuation orders.

There are also smartphone apps to keep users up to date on extreme weather in their area.

But Bild newspaper condemned the “failure” to take early action during the mass flooding in 2021.

“The sirens stayed quiet in plenty of places, very few alerts were issued,” it wrote, labelling the deadly flooding that followed “a disaster for civil protection, one of the state’s most essential jobs”.

The first countywide Warning Day took place in September 2020, without cell broadcast notifications, and was widely considered an abject failure. In the aftermath of the test, authorities were criticised for failing to learn from the issues they had experienced in time for the floods in 2021. 

READ ALSO: Germany questions warning system after flood catastrophe

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