The state of votes
The great challenges which face a movement for prohibition
Anja Noster|translated by: Anja Noster
It is time to set an end to the NPD
Benoît Rinnert| translated by: Benoît Rinnert
Anja Noster | translated by: Anja Noster | 2013. January 26. 20:50
The Constitutional judges in Karlsruhe formulated a premise for a ban: only if the party is openly aggressive and combative against the liberal-democratic system can it be banned. It remains controversial whether this is the case with the politically insignificant NPD. Moreover, would a lawsuit at the German Federal Constitutional Court attract much unwanted attention?
Already at the beginning of this millennium, the Federal Government, the Bundesrat and the Bundestag requested an investigation into the constitutionality of the NPD. The official procedure/ investigation failed in March 2003 in the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe because of the miscarried infiltration of the NPD on federal and regional level by the Verfassungsschutz (Office for the Protection of the Constitution). Therefore, the validity of certain statements by party members is considered controversial and does not serve as strong evidence. This miscarriage of the infiltration resulted in confusion as to who was a real part member and who was a member of the intelligence agency (V-Leute). Despite the lingering doubts about the loyalty of the NPD to the German constitution, no legal action against the party was admissible and the entire process was a huge disgrace for the German democracy. If a new request is again rejected, massive damage could result – even though a ban of the NPD may sound desirable
Especially because of Germany’s past, the standards protected for in the Grundgesetz are very high – in order to prevent another one-party-system. This is why parties being banned has only happened twice since 1945: the extreme, right-wing Socialist Reich Party of Germany was banned in 1952 and the communist KPD in 1956. The Constitutional judges named their unconstitutional message and vision as justification. Nevertheless, it is quite probable that a ban nowadays is a lot harder to ensure than in the 1950s and a request to prohibit the NPD would be scrutinized in greater detail. Furthermore, a 2/3 majority from the 8 judges is necessary.
An official request for a ban is from a legal point of view in itself a challenge. This ban might give the NPD too much publicity for the upcoming Federal Elections next fall. It is very likely that a request might take months or even years to come into effect. The troubled right-wing party could not ask for a better stage to profit from the media spotlight. The NPD only attained 1% of the vote in the Federal Election in 2003 following a failed request for a ban on the party. On top of that, the impact and efficiency of a ban remains controversial. Naturally have to expect that a new party will be founded if the NPD is banned. Furthermore, in other European countries such as France, right-wing parties achieve much better results in elections.
However, the highest hurdle is somewhere else. It is in Strasbourg at the European Court of Human Rights because its criteria will question the immediate danger to the German democracy posed by the NPD and whether a ban can be justified. Because of its poor performance in recent elections, right-wing extremists have a good chance of winning the trial – especially because the European judges have even higher standards for a party ban than the German Constitutional Court. They adhere to the motto: Anything non-influential and meaningless cannot be classified as dangerous.
Why do we even bother paying this party so much attention? Is banning not the easy way? The question is: will an NPD-ban really advance the nation? Would exclusion of public funds for openly undemocratic parties not be better? Or even further: Should the country simply disregard the party and let it conduct events unhindered? Would not that be the best measure to prove right-wing arguments wrong? Unfortunately national socialist attitudes and thoughts cannot be banned overnight.
Benoît Rinnert | translated by: Benoît Rinnert | 2013. January 26. 20:50
The ever more powerful populist movements are re-entering the political scene. Germany cannot, considering its past as well as its leading role in the European community, allow an active NPD: it should use all legal means at its disposal to ban the party.
Daily events show us, especially during economic and social crisie, that the threat of populism is still omnipresent. During the last decades several extreme right-wing parties with obvious reactionary and racist ideology gained more and more public approval and thus influence: for example the Front National in France, Lega Nord in Italy, the Chrysi Avgi (“Golden Dawn”) in Greece, the British United Kingdom Indecency Party or the Swiss People’s Party.
In comparison, the National Democratic Party (NPD) of Germany fluctuating between worrying and poor election results has not seen these good results in decades. However, it still remains desirable to finally abolish the party banning it from the German party landscape.
You may ask why this is necessary despite its small constitutency? The answer is clear: because, well hidden behind official statements of the party – it says “we are not a xenophobic but anti-immigration” on the official party website, and “the party rejects violence as a mean of political discussion" – we can identify the violent, terroristic, right-wing, (Neo-) Nazi implicit message. The memory of the series of murders from the Zwickau Trio and the entanglement of the NPD with the National Socialist Underground (NSU) is still present in the collective German conscious and fresh in our minds.
But even without reaching this high criminal level, the right-wing scene is very active in some regions in Germany. Especially the Neue Bundesländer (newly-formed German states), where unemployment rates and the proportion of foreigners are high compared to the West, remain vulnerable for right-wing extremist groups. This environment makes many young men join these, xenophobic and violent groups. Therefore, violent and bestial clashes between Neo-nazis and antifascists become less scarce.
In many cases individuals who seem to lack a real, personal, political opinion let themselves be influenced by populist claims. On top of that, marginal and maybe even racist expressions or statements found entry into more moderate circles. One example is Thilo Sarrazin’s book “Germany abolishes itself” where the former head of the Bundesbank portrays negative effects of immigration for Germany.
Nevertheless, Germany is capable of stopping and preventing public and hidden national socialist underground movements. Firstly, it has a very powerful Verfassungsschutz (Office for the Protection of the Constitution) and secondly, there is the possibility for the Constitutional Court to ban a party, which has already happened twice since the foundation of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Parties that are suspected to be unconstitutional can be infiltrated with V-Leute who pretend to be loyal but collect information. In other countries the possibilities to observe a party are a lot less productive. This is why the German state should use this more oven – emphasizes Jörg Geibert the Interior Minister of Thüringen.
Article 21 of the Grundgesetz about party rights is very specific, pragmatic, and designed with long term goals in mind: “Their internal organization must conform to democratic principles. Parties that, by reason of their aims or the behavior of their adherents, seek to undermine or abolish the free democratic basic order or to endanger the existence of the Federal Republic of Germany shall be unconstitutional. The Federal Constitutional Court shall rule on the question of unconstitutionality.”
Contemplating all possible interpretations and meanings of this extract, the only reasonable and logical conclusion is to consider the NPD as a threat to the existence of the Federal Republic of Germany and that its proposals and ideas to amend the constitution are as extreme as Hitler’s seizure of power in 1933.
The first attempt to ban the NPD filed by the Federal Government, Bundestag and Bundesrat in 2001 failed eventually at the Constitutional Court. However, it is obvious that a second attempt has a higher chance to succeed and is therefore legitimized by the numbers and also the blatantly undemocratic behavior of the NPD. This is also necessary – even if the members of the Federal Government are unfortunately still not able to reach an agreement.
Recent polls by the ARD and the research group for elections from the ZDF proved that more than three quarters of all Germans would support a ban of the NPD that merged with the German People’s Union at the 01.01.2011. It could hardly be more clear: Those who argue, like the minister of education Annette Schavan, that a ban would just strengthen the NPD evidently lack courage and respect for public opinion.
Anja Noster|translated by: Anja Noster
Benoît Rinnert| translated by: Benoît Rinnert
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