No Mercy for NPD German Far-Right Party Fined Millions

The nation's largest neo-Nazi party, the NPD -- with several members in state government seats -- has been fighting for its life. On Thursday, the German parliament fined the NPD 2.5 million euros for financial statement irregularities. The party's future looks uncertain.

Financially, Germany's far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) was already on the ropes. But on Thursday the federal government added to the party's troubles by fining it €2.5 million in connection with irregularities found in financial statements from 2007. The fine is due May 1.

The NPD, and party head Udo Voigt, are in trouble.

The NPD, and party head Udo Voigt, are in trouble.

The penalty stems from incorrect NPD claims about the size of the party coffers. In anticipation of the fine, the German parliament withheld a €300,000 transfer to the party in February -- meaning the NPD must now come up with €2.2 million in just four weeks.

That promises to be difficult, even if the NPD is allowed to pay its fine in installments. Monthly administrative expenses for the NPD total some €110,000, with donations and membership fees covering just €30,000 of that. The party -- which receives money from Berlin because it has several members in elected office -- has come to rely on federal support for the remaining €80,000.

German election law calls for public funds to be made available to all parties which receive more than 1 percent of the vote in state elections or more than 0.5 percent of the vote in nationwide elections. Furthermore, political parties receive money from Berlin based on the amount of donations they receive.

Indeed, in 2006 the NPD was forced to pay €1.7 million to the federal parliament, or Bundestag, stemming from false claims regarding donations to the party. The party took an additional financial hit when it became clear last year that the party's treasurer, Erwin Kemna, embezzled €741,000 of party funds. Kemna is now in prison serving a three-year sentence.

With general elections approaching in September, the NPD had been hoping to improve on the 1.6 percent of the vote it received in 2005 elections. Now it's unclear how the party will put together a nationwide campaign at all. Even this weekend's planned party convention may be difficult to finance.

An ongoing power struggle also threatens to tear the party apart. A number of pretenders have lined up to challenge unpopular NPD head Udo Voigt, with infighting among them having become bitter in recent months. NPD deputy leader Jürgen Rieger called fellow challenger Andreas Molau "one-eighth Jewish" in February. Molau called Voigt a "compliant puppet of the stock market speculator Rieger."

The neo-Nazi meltdown is welcome in Germany. For years the government has searched for ways to dismantle the party. An outright ban failed in 2003 when it emerged that many of the witnesses for the prosecution, including high-level members of the NPD, were in fact government informants who had penetrated the party. The appetite for another attempt has been limited.

Still, even with the NPD now seeming to be doing everything it can to make the question of a party ban moot, concern about the influence of neo-Nazis in Germany is rising. Police statistics indicate that the number of right-extremist crimes climbed in 2008 an that more and more teenagers are attracted by the message of the far right.

cgh -- with wire reports


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