Banning the NPD: German Governors Agree on Legal Challenge

Governors from Germany's 16 states gave their unanimous support Thursday for a legal bid to ban the country's far-right NPD party. But Chancellor Angela Merkel and members of her cabinet are skeptical that a court challenge will work. The last one, in 2003, failed.

A prior bid to ban the far-right party failed in 2003. Zoom
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A prior bid to ban the far-right party failed in 2003.

Governors from Germany's 16 federal states unanimously agreed Thursday to support a new legal attempt to ban the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD).

The governors, acting on the recommendation of their state interior ministers, who met in Rostock Wednesday, agreed to the move at a meeting in Berlin and will recommend that the Bundesrat, Germany's upper legislative chamber which represents the states, support the measure.

"The evidence, from our point of view, is clear," said Christine Lieberknecht, governor of the eastern state of Thuringia and a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Torsten Albig, the governor of the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein and a Social Democrat (SPD), welcomed the decision. "It is important that the constitutional body, the Bundesrat, follows this path and in doing so sends a strong signal against this racist and fascist party," Albig told the news agency DPA.

The Bundesrat is expected to vote on the issue on Dec. 14.

Lessons from 2003

A prior legal bid to ban the party, which was supported by the Bundesrat, the Bundestag, and the federal government, failed in 2003. The Federal Constitutional Court threw out the case over the issue of government informants in the party's ranks. The court argued that the policies of the far-right party were being formed, in part, by undercover government agents.

Federal authorities cut their ties to government informants in the party this year to help pave the way for another ban attempt. But Merkel and members of her cabinet, including Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, are skeptical that another attempt would succeed in banning the party and remain concerned that a failed bid would only serve to further embolden the party's members.

Last week, a 141-page report on the strength of the case against the NPD was issued by a working group of central and regional authorities.

Support for another attempt at banning the party grew after revelations last year that a neo-Nazi terror cell called the National Socialist Underground (NSU) had allegedly been responsible for the murder of nine shopkeepers of Turkish and Greek origin and a policewoman over the course of more than a decade.

NPD in State Parliaments

Matthias Platzeck (SPD), governor of the eastern state of Brandenburg surrounding Berlin, said a ban of the far-right party was not enough to effectively combat right-wing extremism.

"We also need every demonstration against neo-Nazi marches, every repudiation of racist statements, and all expressions of solidarity with the victims of right-wing violence," he said.

The NPD currently holds seats in the parliaments of two eastern German states: Saxony and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

On Thursday, representatives of the NPD in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania left the parliament's chamber as the state body observed a moment of silence in memory of the victims of the NSU terror cell.

mbw -- with wire reports

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