'Sarrazin affair' opens can of worms in Germany
The resignation of a controversial German central banker came as a relief Friday for Chancellor Angela Merkel's government but his comments on immigration have opened a Pandora's Box.Considerable public support for Thilo Sarrazin have revealed that there is potential for a new political party for voters uneasy about the presence of some four million Muslims in their midst, analysts say.
"The parties are in trouble because the issue of integration has been swept under the carpet," political scientist Gero Neugebauer told AFP.
The Bundesbank central bank said in a surprise statement late on Thursday that Sarrazin would clear his desk in Frankfurt by the end of the month "by mutual accord."
"The president and the government can now breathe a sigh of relief," Oskar Niedermayer, political scientist at Berlin's Free University, told AFP.
The furore followed the publication of a new book by Sarrazin, 'Germany Does Itself In', that said that Germany was being made "more stupid" by poorly educated and unproductive Muslim immigrants and their numerous offspring.
"If I want to hear the muezzin's call to prayer, then I'll go to the Orient," he says in the book, saying that allowing in millions of "guest workers" in the 1960s and 1970s was a "gigantic error".
The banker, who is on the cover of the influential Spiegel weekly this week with the headline "people's hero", also told a newspaper that "all Jews share a certain gene", a property he said was shared by Basques.
Surveys have indicated that Sarrazin's opinions on the integration of Muslims enjoy considerable sympathy, and his book is a best-seller.
The central committee of the centre-left opposition party the Social Democrats (SPD) has moved to expel him, but has been inundated with messages of support for the banker, who has refused to leave the party.
On Thursday at a reading of his book many of the 750-strong audience gave him a standing ovation, reports said.
Figures show immigrants and their children perform worse at school than Germans, have higher rates of unemployment and are more likely to be below the poverty line.
Backing for Sarrazin is so strong that a survey this month indicated that if he set up his own new political party, almost one in five (18 percent) would vote for him.
Sarrazin has no intention of starting a party, but the survey raised fears that a charismatic populist in Germany, like anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, could win considerable support.
"Opinion polls have indicated that there is enough potential support for a new political party," Niedermayer said. "I am firmly convinced that there is a large enough voter potential from people who are more conservative."
For now, however, there is no unified movement and no figure has emerged to lead it. It would also require considerable finance and organisation to break through at the national level in Germany's federal system.
"And any new party would only have a chance if it clearly distances itself from the far-right or crude anti-Islamists, and that is not easy," Niedermayer said. "Just having the voter potential is not enough."
AFP/ Simon Sturdee/ Expatica