German court criticized for not banning neo-Nazi-linked party

Miranda GreerJan 19, 2017

German authorities accuse the party of propagating a racist and anti-Semitic agenda.

It was the second attempt to ban the National Democratic Party, better known by its German acronym NPD.

Although the party's attitude to the constitution has been deemed hostile, it does not have the potential to upend democracy in Germany, the court said.

In 2015, Germany's central Jewish council welcomed the court's decision to consider the ban, calling it "a very important step and an important contribution to the stability of our democracy".

"The NPD intends to replace the existing constitutional system with an authoritarian national state that adheres to the idea of an ethnically defined "people's community", the court said in its ruling. The NPD itself argued that a ban would be incompatible with democracy.

Currently, the NPD constituency has been squeezed out by the Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the PEGIDA movement (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West). Parties need to pass a 5% threshold to win seats in the federal parliament. It does, however, have 338 local council seats, majority in formerly communist East Germany.

Welcoming Tuesday's ruling, the NPD said it would now rebuild.

The debate over whether to ban the party and Tuesday's ruling illustrates the hard task for a democratic state in fighting ideologies that aim to curtail freedom and subvert democracy while preserving the political liberties that a democracy seeks to protect.

The NDP has about five thousand members and has been accused of having neo-Nazi links. Previously, senior NPD members have been convicted of Holocaust denial or incitement.

Only two political parties have been outlawed in Germany since World War II, according to the New York Times, and both of those parties, one far-right and the other far-left, were banned in the 1950s.

"Identification with leading personalities of the (Nazi) party, the use of selected National Socialist vocabulary, texts, songs and symbols, as well as revisionist statements with regard to history demonstrate an affinity. with the mindset of National Socialism", said the court. The court ruled that NPD is too insignificant to constitute a danger.

German states started pursuing a ban after the discovery in 2011 of a neo-Nazi cell, the National Socialist Underground (NSU), blamed for killing nine immigrants and a police woman between 2000 and 2007.

In 2003, the court rejected a similar attempt due to the high number of state informants who had infiltrated the party.

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