Scholz says attacks on deputies 'threaten' democracy

'Democracy is threatened by this kind of act,' Scholz said on Saturday (Odd ANDERSEN)
'Democracy is threatened by this kind of act,' Scholz said on Saturday (Odd ANDERSEN)

Leading politicians on Saturday condemned an attack on a European deputy with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's party, after investigators said a political motive was suspected.

Scholz denounced the attack as a "threat" to democracy and the European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell also sounded the alarm.

Police said four unknown attackers beat up Matthias Ecke, an MEP for the Social Democratic Party (SPD), as he put up EU election posters in the eastern city of Dresden on Friday night.

Ecke, 41, was "seriously injured" and required an operation after the attack, his party said. Police confirmed he needed hospital treatment.

"Democracy is threatened by this kind of act," Scholz told a congress of European socialist parties in Berlin, saying such attacks result from "discourse, the atmosphere created from pitting people against each other".

"We must never accept such acts of violence... we must oppose it together."

Borrell, posting on X, formerly Twitter, also condemned the attack.

"We're witnessing unacceptable episodes of harassment against political representatives and growing far-right extremism that reminds us of dark times of the past," he wrote.

"It cannot be tolerated nor underestimated. We must all defend democracy."

The investigation is being led by the state protection services, highlighting the political link suspected by police.

"If an attack with a political motive... is confirmed just a few weeks from the European elections, this serious act of violence would also be a serious act against democracy," Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said in a statement.

This would be "a new dimension of anti-democratic violence", she added.

- Series of attacks -

Ecke, who is head of the SPD's EU election list in the Saxony region, was just the latest political target to be attacked in Germany.

Police added that a 28-year-old man putting up posters for the Greens had earlier been "punched" and "kicked" in the same Dresden street. The same attackers were suspected.

Faeser said "extremists and populists are stirring up a climate of increasing violence".

The SPD highlighted the role of the far-right "AfD party and other right-wing extremists" in increased tensions.

"Their supporters are now completely uninhibited and clearly view us democrats as game," said Henning Homann and Kathrin Michel, regional SPD leaders.

Armin Schuster, interior minister in Saxony, where an important regional vote is due to be held in September, said 112 acts of political violence linked to the elections have been recorded there since the beginning of the year.

Of that number, 30 were directed against people holding political office of one kind or another.

"What is really worrying is the intensity with which these attacks are currently increasing," he said on Saturday.

On Thursday two Greens deputies were abused while campaigning in Essen in western Germany and one was hit in the face, police said.

Last Saturday, dozens of demonstrators surrounded parliament deputy speaker Katrin Goering-Eckardt, also a Greens lawmaker, in her car in eastern Germany. Police reinforcements had to clear a route for her to get away.

According to provisional police figures, 2,790 crimes were committed against politicians in Germany in 2023, up from 1,806 the previous year, but less than the 2,840 recorded in 2021, when legislative elections took place.