Today (yesterday, actually), I was campaigning for the Free Democratic Party of Germany (FDP) at the
Europafest in Karlsruhe. The Europafest is a public event organized by the Europa-Union and the European School Karlsruhe aiming to spread knowledge about the European Union and general political awareness to the general public and informing people about the upcoming elections for the European Parliament. In our region, these elections (May 25) coincide with the municipal elections so all political parties are currently double-campaigning. At the Europafest the four
old political parties of Germany (CDU, SPD, Grüne and FDP) each had a little marquee to inform interested visitors. We have represented the FDP with a couple of our local candidates from about 10 am to 4 pm when the rain hit in.
For me, it was the first time on the streets again since the 2009 elections for the European Parliament and the first time ever to campaign for the FDP. I have actively joined the German liberals (in addition to my declining engagement in Austria) after their spectacular failure to maintain their seats in the German Bundestag in October 2013. That is, the times are not that good for being a liberal in Germany these days. On the other hand, it seems more important now than ever. The people in the party are very motivated, especially to work hard for the municipal elections.
In addition to our manifesto and list of candidates, we also had some nice give-aways for kids and grown-ups. Tom Høyem – one of our top candidates – had, together with his wife, prepared literally hundreds of lemons with small banderoles that I was handing out to passengers all day. In the beginning, I was a little curious about who would like to have a raw lemon but it turned out to be by far our most-wanted gift and people taking one were often interested in our printed material as well.
During the course of the day, I had a number of good conversations with interested people. Some confirmed their firm support for the liberal party, which was of course a comforting thing to hear. However, what made me happiest was to hear from at least two or three people that – while they stated that the FDP was not their favorite party – they still regretted the loss of political diversity in the German Bundestag since the liberals dropped out after the last elections. I had experienced a mixture of sadness and horrification in the time after the elections when I realized how many people noticed with satisfaction that the liberal voice had disappeared from the parliament. It’s not that I expect everyone to support our ideas but I do expect everyone to support the concept of co-existing political powers in favor of a single-truth party. As far as I am concerned, I am happy about each of the serious political parties raising their voice and keeping the political process of checking and balancing each other going. It was a good thing to see that people with similar minds can also be found among the supporters of our competitors.
Honoring all the positive experiences, one also has to admit that there is still a long way to go for our party. Among the most disappointing questions people ask is why they should vote for the liberals if they are such a small party. If you think that way and happen to read this, please remember that it is your vote that determines how big we can get! Please vote for the party that defends your personal ideals – not the one that you think will win the elections anyway. And apart from that, ALDE is the third strongest power in the European Parliament. Another sad truth is that few people seem to be interested in European politics at all. Maybe there is some good in the combined elections: We can talk to people about both elections together and point out why Karlsruhe needs Europe and Europe needs Karlsruhe and why it matters who has power on both levels of democracy.
I had the opportunity to talk with some interested people about the future of the European Parliament and I was more than happy to see that all of them agreed with our position that the parliament needs to be strengthened, candidates should be elected in a single EU-wide election with no regard to their nationality and more power should be shifted from the ministers and state leaders, probably gathered in the Council of the European Union, to a European government, probably an upgraded European Commission. For this, a true European constitution shall be established to ultimately replace the Treaty of Lisbon.
At the end of the day, I have had a number of interesting discussions, given our manifesto to numerous people, handed out almost two baskets of lemons and was fully motivated to continue campaigning for these most important elections.