The average German MP is white, male, around 50. The “Brand New Bundestag” initiative wants to change that and consciously supports more diverse candidates. Rasha Nasr, 29, from Dresden, for example.
BRIGITTE: Ms. Nasr, have you ever calculated how many votes you need for a Bundestag mandate?
Rasha Nasr: No, I deliberately don’t do that. However, I want to get as much percent as my predecessor, the SPD direct candidate from 2017.
But he only got 13 percent. CDU, Left and AfD each reached more than 20.
I know. And that 13 percent is not enough to make the leap into parliament, that was also the case with my predecessor. But there is still the state list, I’m in fourth place, that could work. And a seat in the Bundestag is not my only goal.
What else are you up to?
I want to show people that politicians can be different from those that are currently causing so many to turn away from the established parties: more authentic, interested in the common good instead of their own benefit, open to cross-party alliances. And I want to draw attention to the problems that concern me and many others. As the daughter of parents who immigrated from Syria to the GDR shortly before the fall of the Wall, I know what it feels like to be bullied on the street because of the color of your skin. Or how annoying it is not to be taken seriously as a young woman. And I’ve noticed since childhood how frustrating it is for many East Germans to get less money for the same job than West Germans.
Why do you think these topics are neglected in politics?
At the federal level in particular, many politicians are neither young nor female, rarely from East Germany and without a migration background. When I joined the SPD in 2017, I also did so to put such topics on the agenda. And to encourage others to trust themselves too. I can do both very well in the election campaign. Even if I don’t end up in the Bundestag afterwards.
Since December you have been getting extra tailwind: Together with ten other politicians you are supported by the “Brand New Bundestag” (BNB) initiative, which aims to make parliament more colorful and younger. How did that happen?
A friend told me about it. As a political scientist, I immediately found it exciting: The idea came from the USA, where “Brand New Congress” brought the Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to the Congress with coaching and campaigning. Will this work too? I asked myself. It was clear to me that I would aim for a direct candidacy with the SPD. And the goals of BNB are also mine: social justice, sustainable economy, climate protection. So I applied.
How did the selection process work?
I had to fill out a questionnaire: who I am, what I stand for. And introduce myself with a video. A jury checked everything. For example, the author Kübra Gümüay and the inclusion activist Raul Krauthausen sat in it, i.e. all representatives of groups that the BNB would like to bring into parliament. Then it was said: We want to support you.
How does that concrete look?
I take part in trainings, learn how to give interviews. I am also in contact with the other candidates. Although they have completely different backgrounds, they are all passionate about the vision of bringing the ideas of movements like Fridays for Future into parliaments. That is totally inspiring! And then of course there is the attention I get from BNB. Many doors through which I could go, such as my direct candidacy, would not have opened so easily without the nationwide reports about my support from BNB. I became very visible, also for Comrade: inside outside of Dresden.
The BNB candidates are scattered all over Germany. In your own constituency, however, there is a second candidate, the Greens’ direct candidate. Aren’t you taking each other’s voices?
That may be true in part. But we have different priorities: Kassem Taher Saleh focuses on asylum and climate policy, I on social justice. In addition, we both fight for a progressive politics and thus support each other. In the end, it is not the Greens who are my political opponents, but the AfD.
How do you intend to convince people to vote for the SPD instead of the AfD?
I want us in the East to gain a new sense of self. The AfD does not want that. It wants to divide. Self-confident East Germans don’t fit her at all, true to the motto “The worse Germany is doing, the better for the AfD”. This worldview and understanding of politics is incomprehensible to me. As the SPD, we have solutions and do not work with headlines that make people afraid. We want to convey confidence that things can get better.
Nevertheless, the SPD – like the CDU and FDP – has concerns about young talent. And among the BNB candidates: many are without a party membership. What is it
The parties have to deal more with what really drives those involved. The Greens are partially successful, some of the Fridays for Future activists are members. At the Dresden SPD, too, I had the feeling straight away: I can make a difference here. But I think that the activists also have an obligation. They should carry their demands more deeply into the parties. We live in a representative democracy, the parties are responsible for occupying the parliaments. If you want to change something, you have to get them on board.
Rasha Nasr, 29, is in Dresden SPD direct candidate for the federal election on September 26th. Born as the daughter of Syrian immigrants in Dresden, she worked as an integration officer after studying politics. Since 2017 she has headed the office of an SPD member of the state parliament. The initiative “Brand New Bundestag” (bnb.de) was founded in 2019 and is financed by crowdfunding.
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