The Federal Election Initiative: More Successful Than the American Model

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Like US politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, these newcomers to politics were not known until recently, and they are now in the Bundestag – thanks in part to a bipartisan initiative.

It has been nine months since attentive readers of the German magazine first read about the “New Bundestag” (BNB) initiative. Their goal: to bring progressive deputies to the German parliament and make it more diverse. “You want to turn the Bundestag upside down,” the Fed said of the eleven candidates who backed BNB. They included Rasha Nasr, 29, Kassem Taher Saleh, 28, from Dresden, and 33-year-old Armand Zorn from Frankfurt. These three are actually members of the Bundestag nine months later, where they want to campaign against racism and rent increases, for green building and digitization.

Maximilian Oehl, who co-founded BNB, says it’s a great success. “When we started we said we would be happy if we came with someone. It is unbelievable that there are now three.” Especially since they have bypassed their American “New Congress” model. This left-wing Democrat initiative helped Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez achieve an unexpected victory in the 2018 congressional elections, who later became a global icon of the young left. On the other hand, other candidates still fail.

Armand Zorn.

© Rinat Hoyer

It is difficult to say what part BNB actually had in the victory of the three election winners. They were all competing for the parties that received clear votes in the federal elections – Rasha Nasr and Armand Zorn for the Social Democratic Party, and Kassem Taher Saleh for the Green Party. The support in all likelihood helped them assert themselves against the best dogs in their party.

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All three were placed as direct candidates and secured promising places on state rolls. Not that, of course, because they were largely unknown before their nominations and didn’t make a long tour of the local assemblies and party committees behind them. Qassem Taher Saleh is convinced that this would not have been possible without the initiative’s support. “The effectiveness of the press organized by BNB was really crucial to making the list. Without it, I might not have gotten such a good spot on the list,” he says. Armand Zorn believes that “a subtle blend of traditional SPD election campaigning, with door-to-door visits and information booths, and Brand New Bundestag’s modern election campaign, with data-driven analytics and online campaigning” helped him secure a direct mandate.

Kassem Taher Saleh.

© imago

In addition, there were workshops and trainings on public speaking, social media and campaign strategy that BNB organized for its candidates – all on a volunteer basis and with the help of volunteers across the country.

According to Maximilian Oil, the initiative will continue to support all three. In the long term, the BNB wants to establish itself as a bridge between party politics and civil society and act as a platform for progressive politicians: from all parties – from the federal government to the local authority. They are currently preparing to campaign for a still-secret candidate who wants to run in state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia.

He can also imagine that the BNB will organize party alliances in future mayoral and district elections in the eastern federal states in order to block far-right candidates.

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