MÜHLDORF, Germany ― “This is a disaster,” says Oliver Multusch. On the screen, South Korea’s Son Heung-Min is running toward the empty German goal. Germany’s goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is nowhere to be seen.
Son scores and celebrates. Germany is out.
The 49-year-old laughs dryly: “That’s a parallel to how politics has been developing in Germany.”
Multusch, tall, with a hard face and strict brows over green eyes, is part of these extraordinary political developments. He is the candidate for Germany’s far-right AfD party in the Bavarian regional Landtag elections, in what was traditionally the Christian Social Union (CSU) stronghold of Mühldorf am Inn, in Upper Bavaria.
In the German national Bundestag election of 2013, the CSU recorded one of the strongest results in all of Bavaria here, with 58 percent of the vote. But four years later, they only had 44 percent ― while the once-marginal AfD, or Alternative for Germany, surged into second place with over 15 percent of the vote, led by Multusch as its chairman.
It shows how conservative Bavaria is changing.
It is politicians like Multusch who are attacking the CSU’s hegemony, who want to be the ones to define Bavarian identity ― and take this privilege away from the traditional center-right party.
“The CSU has lost its base,” Multusch says. He claims that the CSU, which only campaigns in the Bavaria region, is in decline, while the AfD is gaining ground in the region.
According to polls about this coming fall’s regional elections, the AfD is in fact quite stable at 13 percent. If it does win that many votes, the CSU will not be able to get an absolute majority. “Learning from the AfD is learning how to win,” says Multusch.
On the little TV screen in a bistro in the city square of Mühldorf, the scoreboard still says 0-0. We are already seeing indications of Germany’s humiliation.
“Özil Hasn’t Learned Much About What It Is To Be German”
Multusch came straight from work to watch the game. There are lots of colored flecks on his pink polo shirt. The AfD politician is a varnisher. He used to work on the assembly line at a car company, before becoming self-employed.
“As a businessman and a Bavarian, I always had to vote CSU, for quite a long time,” he says. But then came Merkel. “That was not good for Germany.” Refugee policy, globalization and multiculturalism led to a shift to the left, he says.
Meanwhile, Germany’s footballers can’t make it work from the left or from the right. Their players keep getting pushed back by the Korean defense.
Including Mesut Özil.
Of Özil, he says: 'I see him as an example of how integration has failed.'
By the end of the game, Özil had set up seven shots on goal from general play ― more than any other player in this World Cup so far. But Multusch has no use for Turkish-Germans.
“He’s playing again,” he sighs, as soon as the game starts. “I wouldn’t have brought him along.”
“He only plays safe passes,” he adds. “He has no attractiveness, no leadership qualities.”
And according to Multusch, Özil doesn’t have the right background, either. Despite his German passport.
“I see him as an example of how integration has failed,” Multusch says. “To me, a Khedira is higher on the, shall we say, integration list.” He’s referring to central midfielder Sami Khedira, who was born to a Tunisian father and a German mother.
Multusch explains that although Özil, who plays for Arsenal in the English Premier League, was born here, he was socialized in neighborhoods in the Ruhr region with high immigrant populations.
Hotspots like that in Germany are often “infiltrated” by Muslims, Multusch says. “Germanness could have helped shape his personality, but he never learned much about it,” Multusch adds.
He doesn’t seem to care that Özil calls Gelsenkirchen ― not Turkey ― his home. Like many members of his party, Multusch seems to want to predetermine what it means to be German for people who come from a migrant background.
Anyone who lives here should live Christian, Western, German values, Multusch says, and Özil doesn’t do that.
He left Germany early on. And the Islam by which Özil lives is not even a real religion, it’s just a political movement, Multusch claims. Multusch’s idea of Islam is in line with that of his fellow party members.
While the AfD politician rails against him, Özil, out on the field in Russia, makes a strong piercing pass to striker Timo Werner. The forward falls back. Multusch fumes.
“We haven’t changed ― the CSU has.”
This AfD man misses the national team’s old guard.
He means players like Philipp Lahm, Per Mertesacker, Bastian Schweinsteiger or Miroslav Klose. “A whole axis is just missing from the team,” Multusch says.
Multusch has great things to say about players like Stefan Effenberg or Lother Matthäus, who he says would have “just gotten right in there” if a game wasn’t going well. Just like the late longtime chairman of the CSU Franz Josef-Strauß used to do in Bavaria, he says. Since the CSU patriarch, there haven’t been any politicians in that party who were good for anything, says Multusch. Today’s generation of politicians have never “done a hard day’s work” in their life.
He had always voted for the CSU, until eventually he found that the party had changed too much.
Change ― that is what explains the success of the AfD in Bavaria. And especially in Mühldorf.
It is a rich city located in a beautiful natural setting. It’s clean there, and traditional. It fits the so-called Heimat, or home country, concept in the classic CSU sense. Just recently, the CSU decided to build a new connection to the autobahn. A new industrial park will be created to lure investors from Munich.
Modernity is coming to Mühldorf. And there are people who are bothered by that, who liked things better as they used to be — people like Oliver Multusch.
“We enjoy a certain quality of life here, a quality of life that we want to preserve,” he says. According to Multusch, the people of Mühldorf have certain fears about the future, fears that the CSU doesn’t take seriously anymore.
“I never wanted to join a party,” Multusch says. But then came the AfD, and according to Multusch, its ideas for achieving direct democracy convinced him: “I would never have joined if it had just been about refugee policy.”
Still, it is precisely that issue, this new and diffuse fear that people have, that he campaigns on.
X millions of dollars are being spent on migrants, but then there is no money left for important things. Oliver Multusch
“I drive along this bridge every day,” explains Multusch. “In the mornings there are always black women leaving the refugee shelters there, holding one child by the hand, one in a wagon and one in the womb.”
The AfD district chair says immigrants have kids without giving it any thought. “But people here naturally give it a little thought first.”
That is why Multusch is calling for the shelters in the Mühldorf region to be closed. Multusch deems the location no longer suitable for its residents because of riots that took place there in the past.
Multusch says it’s perfectly legitimate to call out those situations. “We always get accused of stirring up fears, but we don’t do that at all.”
The AfD Mühldorf Facebook page tells a different story. There, you’ll find the sort of polemic typical of the AfD that demands ― in all caps ― that Merkel resign, describes Islam as bloodthirsty, rants that the country is being ruled by idiots, and accuses the Green Party of betraying the people.
If you speak with Multusch one on one, he is not a man who gives off that kind of hysteria. His way of speaking is calm and well-informed. He “doesn’t want to generalize” and he wants to “differentiate.”
Yet the carefully chosen words do not quite manage to hide the content of Multusch’s arguments. Not when he talks about Mesut Özil, and not when he discusses Nazism.
“Calling Every German A Nazi – That’s Going Too Far”
Right now, Özil is crossing the ball to central defender Max Hummels, who is unmarked and able to head it ― but no goal, yet again. The fourth official reveals six minutes of stoppage time. “World Cup bonus,” Multusch laughs. He seems relaxed.
Then comes the goal that puts South Korea ahead 1-0, followed by another one by Son Heung-Min. Germany, a team that has won four World Cups and hasn’t missed the semi-finals of a major tournament since 2006, has been knocked out of the World Cup in the group stages for the first time in 80 years. Multusch shrugs.
He says he doesn’t think the World Cup will have much of an effect on Bavaria’s elections. “Maybe now we’re getting the lethargy,” Multusch says.
Multusch has definitely not had his heart in the tournament this year, as he’s been too busy with the campaign. And he’s just spent about two hours talking about that campaign.
Refugee policy, the home country, identity ― during the game this AfD man often sounds a lot like current CSU Bavarian President Markus Söder. All that changes after the final whistle, when Multusch starts to sound more like AfD leader Alexander Gauland.
His wife, Andrea, sits down at our table. She has long blonde hair and is about Multusch’s age. She lights a cigarette and at first just listens.
Now Multusch is talking about Berlin, not Mühldorf, and about the German people and the “guilt complex.” He’s saying that he saw the exhibition in Berlin’s Bendlerblock complex about the German Resistance against the Nazis, and that it made him mad to hear the tour guide say again and again that the Germans were to blame for the Nazi era.
“Calling every German a Nazi ― that’s going too far,” Multusch says; not every German committed crimes back then. “Many people did not support Hitler,” Multusch claims, “but they had no way of turning back time.”
Sure, he says, you could say the Germans were receptive to Nazi ideology, that’s a fair accusation. “But it was mostly the intellectuals, the elites, who stood behind Hitler.”
Multusch doesn’t want to be misunderstood here. He angles like other AfD politicians before him ― Björn Höcke, Alexander Gauland ― basically saying: Of course the Nazi era was bad and awful, but ....
Multusch, Gauland, Höcke: They always make it sound like National Socialism was not a crime committed by the German people, but rather a crime committed by a select few — against the German people, even.
“You really shouldn’t whitewash anything about that regime,” Multusch says. “Just look at the state the German people were in after the war; we were at rock bottom.”
Andrea Multusch nods emphatically throughout her husband’s talk. “People are always saying that we can’t be proud of where we come from,” she says, pointing out that after all, there are also other people that have committed genocide.
When I ask her about the unparalleled horror of the extermination industry that the Germans built, Mrs. Multusch says: “And today there is a reflex. Since we were so bad, we have to take everyone in. There is an asylum industry being constructed that is devouring everything.”
Her husband nods and takes a drink from his glass of wheat beer, and says, “You can’t be so willing to help that you sacrifice yourself. X millions of dollars are being spent on migrants, but then there is no money left for important things.”
Multusch’s wife has to leave. The bistro is now almost empty, with just the AfD politician and a man in a Germany jersey sitting at their places. The German fan comes over to us.
“What total crap,” he says, getting worked up and griping, first about Özil, then about Merkel. “It’s just like in politics,” the man says. “When all of them stick around in their positions too long. They don’t know that their time is up.”