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Freedom in the World

Freedom in the World 2017



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(1=Most Free, 7=Least Free)

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Germany, a member of the European Union (EU), is a representative democracy with a vibrant political culture and civil society. Political rights and civil liberties are largely assured both in law and practice. The political system is influenced by the country’s totalitarian past, with constitutional safeguards designed to prevent authoritarian rule. Although generally stable since the mid-20th century, politics are experiencing tensions following an influx of asylum seekers into the country and the growing popularity of a right-wing party, among other issues.

Key Developments: 
  • The right-wing, populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party gained ground in several state-level elections, taking advantage of a wave of discontent with Chancellor Angela Merkel and Europe’s immigration crisis.
  • Attacks on refugee housing remained a major problem, and both refugees and religious minorities reported a significant number of threats as well as incidents of hate speech and violence.
  • Several terrorist attacks took place during the year, the most serious one targeting a Berlin Christmas market in December and ending with 12 deaths and dozens of injuries.
Executive Summary: 

In 2016, Germany’s public sphere continued to absorb the consequences of the record-breaking flow of asylum seekers into the country the previous year. Although the migration flow ebbed significantly, violence against refugees and their homes remained high. Religious minorities also reported high lebels of threats, hate speech, and even violence. Amid these tensions, support for the right-wing, populist, anti-immigration AfD grew in all five state-level elections that took place during the year.

A number of terrorist attacks shook Germany, including ones carried out in the name of or claimed by the Islamic State (IS) militant group. The most severe attack targeted a Christmas market in Berlin and left 12 people dead and dozens injured. Following two attacks in July, the Bundestag passed amendments to existing antiterrorism legislation to improve the German intelligence service’s ability to cooperate and share information with foreign counterparts. 

In March, German comedian Jan Böhmermann became the center of a freedom of expression controversy after performing a satirical poem about Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Using an obscure law that enables foreign heads of state to prosecute insult in German courts with authorization from the German government, Erdoğan took steps to launch a criminal case against Böhmermann. Merkel granted authorization for use of the law, and the case led to significant international outcry. Prosecutors dropped it in October, citing insufficient evidence, and authorities announced plans to review the legislation.

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