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Sunday, September 13, 1998 Published at 04:26 GMT 05:26 UK

Anti-foreigner campaigning in Bavaria

Foreigners might work in the CSU rallies, but few actually support the party

By BBC Bonn Correspondent Caroline Wyatt

What has been most noticeable in the Bavarian election campaigns is a harsh tone of anti-foreigner rhetoric. The ruling CSU have put up posters urging people not to vote for them if they want more foreigners in Germany.

At a traditional pre-election rally of the Christian Social Union (CSU) - sister party of the Chancellor Helmut Kohl's Christian Democrats - in Munich, the brass band wears lederhosen, the barmaids are blonde and buxom and the beer is sold by the litre. It may seem like a stereotype, but it is one that conservative Bavarians enjoy living up to.

What is most striking at this rally is that - despite the number of Turkish families living and working in Bavaria over the last 30 years - not a single one has turned out to support the CSU.

The reasons why are not difficult to fathom. On the campaign trail, banging his fist hard on the podium, Germany's Finance Minister and CSU MP, Theo Waigel, loudly makes clear his party's policy on law and order - criminal foreigners in Germany must be deported.

Few Turks have the vote

As most Turks living in Germany keep their Turkish passports, few have the vote. Even those born here have no automatic right to become German citizens.

[ image: Finance Minister Theo Weigel: Criminal foreigners must be deported]
Finance Minister Theo Weigel: Criminal foreigners must be deported
Germany's citizenship laws are based on blood not birth - making it difficult for any foreigner, even those born and bred here, to gain German nationality.

Dual citizenship is not allowed, making many Turkish residents reluctant to take a German passport if it means losing their Turkish identity. They are therefore, a useful target for vote-hungry politicians eager to wave the German flag.

Yet Mr Waigel denies that his party is in any way anti-foreigner.

"We have integrated the foreigners who live here," he insists.

"We have more foreigners than other countries but we also are demanding they have to respect our system. If they don't, they must go back to their own countries."

Nearing far right

But to many, the CSU's language appears dangerously close to the rallying cry of extreme right-wing parties, like the Republikaner party who are also seeking to win seats in the Bavarian Parliament. They, too, demand the deportation of criminal foreigners and keeping German jobs for German people.

Yet the far-right DVU - the German People's Union - is not bothering to field any candidates in the Bavarian election. Its spokesman Bernhard Droese explains why: "Here in Bavaria, there's little to gain for the right. The CSU have used all our policies in their manifesto and we're quite happy with that, we can't see any point in fielding our own candidates."

[ image: Far-right ideas have travelled to mainstream politics]
Far-right ideas have travelled to mainstream politics
According to the Christian Social Union, Germany is not a country of immigration and it plans to stay that way, despite the two million Turks living and working in Germany.

Professor Michael Stuermer, a former adviser to Chancellor Helmut Kohl, says there is a problem with foreigners in Germany, but not one of the CSU's making.

The rhetoric is still very guarded because the politicians of all the major parties know they are playing with fire.

"But you cannot just ignore the problem," he says, "otherwise, you allow the radical parties from the right to come over and hijack the subject. This country has had no policy on immigration and really has closed its eyes, and said multiculturalism is a wonderful thing, until it saw what multiculturalism can do to a country. It can tear it apart."

Deportation threats

For young Turks in Munich Germany is their home - multicultural or not. Yet many say they do feel increasingly unwelcome - thanks partly to a court case that has made headlines across the nation.

A 14-year-old Turkish youngster known as Mehmet has been threatened with deportation, after starting a one boy crime spree in Munich.

Though he was born in Germany, Bavarian officials want him deported to Turkey - a country he has never visited, with a language he does not speak. His parents are devastated.

Cem Oezdemir, a German MP whose parents are Turkish, says he is shocked by the authorities' actions. "Our problem in Germany is that we are talking here about a child who was born in Germany, who belongs to Germany, who is in trouble with the law. But Mehmet committed his crimes in this country and Turkey is not responsible for that. We are responsible for it, and as long as Germany doesn't realise that we are responsible for the children born in this country - wherever their parents came from - we won't solve this problem."

CSU "playing with fire"

Cornelia Schmalz-Jakobsen, the Government minister with responsibility for foreigners, says that the CSU is playing with fire.

"This anti-foreigner tone is rude, it's unhelpful, and it doesn't get us anywhere in terms of furthering integration. And in the case of Mehmet, yes he had committed crimes - but he committed them here and it's up to Bavaria to deal with that in a more constructive way."

Back at the CSU rally, none of the men in lederhosen or the women in their traditional dirndls would consider themselves supporters of the far right.

Yet the most worrying thing for Germany's seven million foreigners is that the rhetoric of the extremists, though not their violent deeds, has become an accepted part of a German election campaign, by a party in power both at local and national level.

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