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POLITICS

CSU and Free Voters begin coalition talks in Bavaria

Three days after the state elections in Bavaria, the CDU and Free Voters have begun talks to form a coalition.

CSU and Free Voters begin coalition talks in Bavaria
Markus Söder at a CSU press conference in Munich on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Led by party leaders Horst Seehofer and Hubert Aiwanger, the conservative CSU and center to center-right Free Voters are looking to lay down the groundwork for possible coalition negotiations.

SEE ALSO: Comment: Political earthquake in Bavaria? No, but Germany is still shaking things up

For most of their 73-year history, the CSU have single-handedly governed Bavaria, but after an unprecedented low result of 37.2 percent in Sunday’s elections, are now looking for a coalition partner.

They don’t have any time to waste. “Let's get started now,” Seehofer said on Wednesday when he arrived at the state parliament in Munich.

Discussions with the Greens, who won around 17 percent of the vote, are planned for the afternoon. Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) stressed that he was “optimistic about the talks”.

'We'll manage'

As in the past few days, Aiwanger was confident that the two parties could reach an agreement quickly. “We'll manage,” he said, pointing out that the parties have been working towards this for years. The Free Voters of Bavaria, founded in 1978, have not yet been in a coalition with a major party.

Directly after the exploratory talks with both the Free Voters and the Greens, the CSU wants to decide with which party it wants to start coalition negotiations.

It remains to be seen how much time both the Greens and Free Voters will need to speak out for – or against – coalition negotiations. The Free Voters could vote on it at their party conference on October 27th.

SEE ALSO: The winners and losers: 7 things you need to know about the Bavarian elections

Söder and Seehofer had repeatedly stressed over the past few days that they sympathize more with an alliance with the Free Voters, whose major issues span the political spectrum – from stricter border controls to a push for greater renewable energies – but who encompass more conservative viewpoints.

However, the Free Voters also campaign for social issues, such as free daycare for families.

With the Greens, for example, the CSU's sees considerable differences in content in the areas of domestic politics and environmental protection.

It is also unclear whether the SPD, who snagged a historically low 9.7 percent of the vote, would still be prepared to meet with the CSU for exploratory talks – which their leadership board wants to discuss on Sunday, reported DPA. This option would only come into effect if talks with Greens and Free Voters failed.

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POLITICS

‘Not harmless nutcases’: German authorities identify new suspects in alleged coup plot

German authorities have identified more suspects after the major raids against the Reichsbürger, who allegedly sought to overthrow the government. Here’s what we know so far.

'Not harmless nutcases': German authorities identify new suspects in alleged coup plot

Germany has now identified 54 suspects and conducted more than 150 searches, Federal Criminal Office (BKA) President Holger Münch told public broadcaster ARD on Thursday.

The current suspects include an eccentric aristocrat known for his outspoken conspiracy theories, as well as former militia and an Alternative for Germany (AfD) member who until recently sat in German parliament.

READ ALSO: Who was involved in the alleged plot to ‘overthrow German democracy’?

Weapons – including crossbows and rifles – were also found at around 50 locations, Münch said, adding that there would likely be more suspects and searches in the coming days.

On Wednesday around 3,000 federal police carried officers carried out raids and arrests on a total of 25 people in eleven German states, as well as Italy and Austria.

Those arrested on Wednesday included “a dangerous mix of people with irrational convictions, some with a lot of money and others in possession of weapons”, Münch said.

They had put in place “a plan that they also intended to carry out… That makes it dangerous and that is why we intervened,” he said.

However, “We should not assume that a group with a few dozen members, maybe a hundred, is able to really challenge the state system in Germany,” Münch said.

“We have identified other people whose status in relation to this group we do not yet know exactly,” he said.
The group is thought to be made up of supporters of the “Citizens of the Reich” (Reichsbürger), an ideological movement in Germany that encompasses far-right extremists, conspiracy theorists and gun enthusiasts.

The Reichsbürger generally believe in the continued existence of the pre-World War I German Reich, or empire, under a monarchy and several groups have declared their own states.

Long-time targets

Germany’s security authorities had been targeting the Reichsbürger group since the spring and had a fairly clear overview of its development and plans, according to Thomas Haldenwang, the President of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

Their plans then became increasingly concrete and weapons were procured, Haldenwang told public broadcaster ZDF.

“The German security authorities as a whole had the situation under control at all times,” he said. “But if it had been up to this group, this danger was already quite real.”

BKA chief Münch rejected accusations that authorities waited until the last moment to act. Rather, he said, the had wanted to gather enough evidence that a terrorist organization was behind the plans. There was no clarity yet on the timing of the overtly planned coup, he added. 

Heinrich XIII

The arrested Heinrich XIII, Prince of Preuss sits in a police car in Frankfurt on Wednesday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

‘Anything but harmless nutcases’

Terrorism expert Peter Neumann said that the group is “able and willing to carry out serious terrorist attacks against the state,” Neumann told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland . 

“They formulate resistance narratives most clearly and claim to have the right and legitimacy to wage armed resistance against the state,” Neumann said.

CSU interior affairs expert Andrea Lindholz saw a “new quality” in the group’s willingness to use violence. 

Reichsbürger are “anything but harmless nutcases and conspiracy theorists,” the deputy leader of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group told the Rheinische Post newspaper on Thursday.

Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser also warned against underestimating the group. What made them so dangerous, she said, was “that there was a military arm of it. With people who used to be in the Bundeswehr, so they can also handle weapons,” the SPD politician told public broadcaster ARD.

Haldenwang told ARD that security checks needed to be conducted on all people who are accepted into the security agencies of the federal and state governments.

The Reichsbürger scene has been underestimated for too long, said Germany’s Amadeu Antonio Foundation, which is committed to combating right-wing extremism, racism and anti-Semitism.

Repeatedly in recent years, there had been clear signs that the followers were ready to use violence and were apparently also well organized, extremism researcher Lorenz Blumenthaler, who works for the foundation, told the DPA. 

“But especially in security circles, the groups have often been ridiculed and their enormous potential danger taken lightly, despite intensive warnings from civil society.” 

The issue, however, has been high on the political agenda ever since authorities foiled plans to kidnap German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach in April, he said.

 “Nobody is really laughing [at the threat] anymore.”

White House offers support

The U.S. government has offered support to Germany following Wednesday’s crackdown.

“We remain in close contact with our partners in government and stand ready to help if asked,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre told DPA on Wednesday when asked if the U.S. was offering Germany intelligence on the matter.

She said they welcome the diligence of the German government and its law enforcement agencies in the fight “against violent extremism” and for the “security of its citizens and government facilities.”

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