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PEGIDA fever sweeps across Germany

Monday, 15 December, 2014

It will be cold in Dresden tonight, but that won’t stop an expected 10,000 people from taking to the streets to voice their support for PEGIDA. What exactly does the acronym mean? PEGIDA stands for Patriotische Europäer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes or “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West”. Such is its appeal that similar movements have sprung up in several cities around Germany: “Bogida” in Bonn, “Dügida” in Düsseldorf”, “Kagida” in Kassel and “Wügida” in Würzburg. There are lots of cities in Germany so it’s expected that PEGIDA will expand to fill the alphabet.

PEGIDA

Unease at the record number of immigrants and refugees from North Africa and the Middle East arriving in Germany seems to be one driver of PEGIDA’s popularity: According to the OECD, a total of 465,000 newcomers moved to the country in 2013 — more than double the number in 2007. But it’s the stated opposition to the “Islamization of the West” that is troubling Berlin, which dreads a clash of civilizations acted out on the streets.

The staunchly middle class nature of the PEGIDA movement is another worry for Germany’s political establishment. The elites are uninterested in politics, so long as the parties don’t touch their wealth, and the underclass is disinterested, so long as the politicians don’t cut welfare. But it’s the emergence of a “squeezed middle” in search of political expression that has alarmed the centrist parties, whose credibility is based on achieving compromise. Might the populist AfD make capital from the emergence of PEGIDA? Might the populist Linke gain traction from the growth of PEGIDA?

In his superb New Yorker article, The Quiet German: The astonishing rise of Angela Merkel, the most powerful woman in the world, George Packer looks at Germany and sums it up thus: “A political consensus founded on economic success, with a complacent citizenry, a compliant press, and a vastly popular leader who rarely deviates from public opinion — Merkel’s Germany is reminiscent of Eisenhower’s America.” And then along came PEGIDA.


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