The morning after: this is the time everyone wakes up from the drunken stupor and realizes the disastrous mistakes committed the day before. It is indeed the time of reckoning for all political parties in Germany, after what is being referred to by German media as a “political earthquake” or a veritable tectonic shift in the foundation. Truer words could not have been spoken, following the stunning results of yesterday’s federal elections. The massive losses of the Christian Democrats, Social Democrats and the Greens, have everyone in shock, but no outcome is more paralysing than the emergence of the right-winged Alternative for German (AfD) party as the third strongest party in the country. It is only the Liberal Party (FDP) coming in fourth and clocking in with a major win that saved their skins from complete eradication from the political arena, given the disastrous performance four years ago. They have saved themselves, but how instrumental will they be in the restoration of political stability?
By the end of the day yesterday, I went to bed pondering my decision to have migrated to Germany earlier this year. I thought I had found a way out of Philippine politics and distanced myself from the demise of the dignity of national leadership, only to land in a political snake pit that is going to prove itself to be severely disadvantageous to foreign migrants in the long run. The AfD’s track record of anti-semitic remarks, well-known anti-immigration attitude, and campaign to restore concepts and terminology with Nazi connotations under the guise of restoration of national pride is utterly terrifying for those of us who are non-German, and non-European for that matter. Narrow-minded political mentality fuelled by increasing frustration with the status quo, tends to catapult a nationalistic fervour into very dangerous waters, and at some point, this over-enthusiasm primarily espoused by the ultranationalist far-right National Democratic Party is going to cease distinguishing between Islamic and non-Islamic migrants in Germany and lump us all together into “the evil foreigners out to steal Germany from the Germans.”
Change is in the air, and this doesn’t simply apply to the transition from Summer into Autumn, or does it? The laid back banter of the campaign is over and the reality checks began today. Continuing my metaphors from yesterday, the venerable ancestral wolves will have one day to lick their wounds before they stand up and survey the damage. Negotiations for coalitions have begun but whether they will lead to a cohesive government that can provide services, restore economic imbalances, improve education and employment opportunities without endangering the European Union and overall national stability remains to be seen.
Needless to say, Angela Merkel has her work cut out for her, not just as the controlled managing scientist that she is, but also the progressive stateswoman she has proven to be the last 12 years. As to the AfD, well, let’s wait and see how the cookie crumbles, because the internal instability of the party revealed itself in the last 12 hours and they are projecting anything but a united front.
Where does that leave us non-Germans in Germany? Basically, here, there and everywhere. There is no clarity, no golden carrot, and certainly no welcome with open arms. Migrating to Germany is a huge risk and not for the faint-hearted. The residency permits issued by the Foreigners Registration Office (Ausländerbehörde) carry with them all sorts of restrictions that prevent foreigners from fully integrating in this country, from a strictly legal perspective. The unlimited residency permit (unbefristite Aufenthaltserlaubnis), for example, is one of the biggest misnomers I have encountered. Whereas it allows me to seek employment, I am not allowed to start my own business or set up a consultancy firm, but I am obliged to conform to all taxation rules. There is no such thing as an identity card for foreigners either, unlike in the Philippines where all registered foreigners residing there are granted an ACRI card (Alien Certificate of Registration card) that they can carry around. Here in Germany I have no choice but to constantly carry my passport around. Some of you might be wondering, what about the driver’s license? I don’t have one and even if I did, it would be a Filipino one which again is not validly recognised in Germany.
Back to politics and the drawing board. Have I jumped from the frying pan into the fire? Only time will tell.