The far-rightNational Democratic Party (NPD) recently made gains in state elections in Saxony. Now a politician in the German state of Bavaria wants to launch a new bid to ban them.
"Bavaria will not just look on as the NPD, an enemy of the constitution, drives to establish itself," Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann, a member of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.
By pushing to take the case to Germany's highest court, the CSU, which rules Bavaria in a coalition with the Free Democratic party (FDP), is breaking ranks with its sister party, Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU). The CDU in no way supports or endorses the NPD and would be pleased to see it disappear from the political stage altogether. But the CDU wants to avoid another failure to ban the group at Germany's Federal Constitutional Court. They would prefer simply to wait until the party is pushed back into the margins of society or for a more opportune time to launch another offensive against them.
Xenophobic Views and Nazi Ideology
In 2003, the federal government made a first attempt to seek a ban on the NPD, claiming its far-right ideology breached Germany's constitution and strict anti-Nazi laws. The government argued the party should be outlawed because of its xenophobic views and espousal of Nazi ideology. Indeed, Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, has described the NPD as a "racist, anti-Semitic, revisionist" political body. But the attempt failed. Judges at Germany's highest court threw the case out, saying that some of the evidence against the NPD was inadmissible because it had been collected by informants for the German intelligence service, meaning the trial was irreversibly tainted.
Wolfgang Schäuble, the federal interior minister and also a member of Merkel's CDU, would like to avoid an embarassing repeat of that debacle. Earlier this year, Schäuble also snubbed similar plans by the Social Democratic Party (SPD), labelling them as "unserious."
Speaking to SPIEGEL ONLINE on Thursday, the deputy head of the CDU's parliamentary group, Wolfgang Bosbach, said the situation hadn't changed since 2003 and the "reasons that have kept us from submitting a new application to ban (the NPD) are still valid today." Bosbach said he shared the CSU politician's opinion "that the NPD is anti-constitutional and dangers. I also think it should be banned."
But Herrmann maintains that the NPD poses an acute threat to Germany that must be taken seriously.
In an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Herrmann said that he would be willing to lead a "straight forward debate" with Schäuble if necessary, adding that he knew he would also be able to rely on full support from Bavaria's Governor Horst Seehofer, also a member of the CSU. He said he would be ready to launch a case by next summer.
Herrmann's announcement comes less than two weeks after the NPD managed to clear the 5 percent threshold during its re-election campaign in the eastern state of Saxony. Under German law, a party needs 5 percent of the vote or more in order to enter parliament officially. Saxony's state party funding rules stipulate that the party may be entitled to an additional €100,000 ($146,000) a year in state financing because it secured a second term. The NPD has met that condition, having leapt the 5 percent threshold to enter the assembly in Saxony twice in a row. The party wants to use that money to transform its "Education Center for Homeland and National Identity" into a foundation.
'Endangering our Country'
The Left Party and the Greens have argued the NPD should not be given the money because of its xenophobic political platforms. These are highlighted in its current campaign for the Sept. 27 national election with slogans like "Fatherland, Mother Tongue, Children's Joy" and "German Work for Germans First." The NPD is also demanding €500 child benefit "for every German child" and a monthly mother's benefit of €1,000 for "every German mother." In the Saxony election, the party's slogans included placards with phrases like "Deport Criminal Foreigners," with "criminal" printed in smaller letters, and "Stop the Invasian by Poles."
Last month the NPD hit the headlines for harassing a black member of Merkel's CDU, telling him he should leave the country. And during the spring, the SPD published a 90-page document in which it quoted the NPD leader in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Udo Pastörs, saying that "a Jew cannot be a German in the sense of ethnic origin."
Politicians across party lines are united in a desire to stop the NPD. But what they seem to be divided about is whether a new case should be brought to court to do so. "If we leave the NPD to do what it wants until the federal republic is at risk, then we have missed the right point for a ban," Herrmann told the Süddeutsche Zeitung. "Then we will be endangering our country."