The old town is spruced up, the unemployment rate is low, and it is home to many small companies and craft businesses – there are cities in eastern germany that are far worse off than pulsnitz in saxony.
"If you look at the paperwork, this is a city where you really had to say: everything is fine," frank-walter steinmeier stated on wednesday. "If you look at the election results, you can see that there is dissatisfaction in the city." The election results – that were last seen in the state elections on 1. September 29.8 percent for the afd.
The federal president and his wife elke budenbender drove to the town, which has a population of around 7500 and is located 25 kilometers northeast of dresden, to find out where this mood comes from.
No easy undertaking, as will become clear. Steinmeier uses his "coffee table" series of speeches for this purpose. This time, 14 invited guests gathered for coffee and cake, led by mayor barbara luke. It is the second reason for steinmeier’s visit to the municipality known for its gingerbread production.
Steinmeier and luke already know each other from the summer, when the local politician together with other burgermeisters was in the castle bellevue. The occasion at the time: the increasing verbal and, time and again, actual attacks on local politicians.
This topic is on steinmeier’s mind – intensified since the assassination of kassel government president walter lubcke at the beginning of june, presumably by a right-wing extremist. At the time, he spoke of an "alarm signal for our democracy" . In pulsnitz, he describes local politicians as "the skeleton of democracy, the backbone of democracy"
The non-party luke, in office since 2016, has had her own experiences with hostility. Insults, eggs thrown at the windows of her house, oversized dog poop in front of the door – "that’s common," the 51-year-old reports.
The losers are often simple decisions – in pulsnitz, for example, the planned demolition of the completely dilapidated "kante" sports facility. She is now implementing the decision she made in 2014, says luke. "You can’t imagine what’s going on there. How many insults I have had to listen to because of this. This sports town leads to a lot of hatred."
But where do frustration and dissatisfaction come from?? At the coffee table, steinmeier first hears sentences like these: "we’re doing well economically."And: "i am satisfied."
But then comes the "whining at a high level", of which one of the guests speaks. The fact that too many taxes and duties are deducted from wages, leaving hardly anything left over, is criticized. That working conditions in the nursing sector were becoming increasingly unbearable. That there is no longer any appreciation for hard-working people. And that the decline in values in society is increasing. Courtliness, decency, and cooperation are increasingly falling by the wayside.
One participant in the discussion lacks "humility" among voters and elected officials alike. "Those up there do what they want." Another complains: "the economic pressure is high."Many diffuse worries and fears are becoming visible. Steinmeier listens, asks questions, and points out, among other things, that unemployment has dropped from 22 to 6 percent. That shows "not everything has gotten worse," she says.
"It would be reckless to simply ignore what is changing at the local level," says steinmeier afterwards. He points to the danger of dissatisfaction with decisions turning into anger and hatred of politics in general. And he recalls the attacks on local politicians "for taking responsibility".
Not everyone can withstand this pressure. In arnsdorf, saxony, mayor martina angermann (SPD) just applied for early retirement after months of agitation. For luke this is out of the question: "i don’t think about it at all."She enjoys the work despite everything, she says. She is an insolvency lawyer by training. "There i was also always the fool from the bank who took away the apartment building." Arger is thus simply used to the jurist. "There couldn’t have been a better training session."