Germany debates legal attempt to ban far-right AfD party

Germany debates legal attempt to ban far-right AfD party

Online petition to ban AfD party collects over 800,000 signatures, but legal experts warn of high legal hurdles

By Erbil Basay

BERLIN (AA) – The rise of the far-right AfD in opinion polls, and recent reports about its secret plans to deport immigrants, have sparked a debate in Germany about a legal attempt to ban the party.

An online petition, which called on the constitutional bodies to consider a ban on the AfD, have collected over 800,000 signatures, which were submitted to the Federal Council earlier this month.

Around 50 lawmakers, including German Parliament’s Vice President Aydan Ozoguz, and senior Social Democrat politician Ralf Stegner, have already announced their support for an examination of a potential ban.

But experts are warning that there are high legal hurdles for such a move, and it involves some political risks, as a failure to do so could further strengthen the far-right party.

Prof. Ulrich Battis, a prominent constitutional law expert, told Anadolu that a potential case against the AfD would be complicated, as parts of the party consist right-wing extremists, and are clearly a threat to democratic system, but other supporters are merely frustrated protest voters.

“Only the Federal Constitutional Court can decide on a ban, in a very precise, hurdle-filled process, which takes a very long time. Therefore, I believe that making a such an application at the moment could strengthen the AfD in regional elections in autumn,” he said, referring to the forthcoming elections in the eastern states of Thuringia, Saxony and Brandenburg.

“If such a legal procedure were started now, it would certainly take at least two years, and would likely have positive effects on the AFD, because people then would start saying that it's not fair what has been done now, other parties could not win politically, and they are turning to judicial means, “ he said, adding that stronger efforts should be taken to politically challenge and defeat the far-right ideology.

According to the German constitution, the parliament (Bundestag), the Federal Council (Bundesrat) and the government can apply to the Federal Constitutional Court to ban a party for its anti-constitutional goals or anti-democratic behavior.

In the past, several attempts to ban far-right parties had failed due to legal controversies, lack of objective evidence, or mistakes made in preparing the case.

The Federal Constitutional Court turned down an application to ban the far-right NPD party in 2003 on the grounds that some of the party officials used as witnesses were informants of the domestic intelligence agency.

A second attempt to outlaw the NPD also failed in 2017, as the federal judges concluded that the party did not have the potential to realize its anti-constitutional or anti-democratic activities.

Dr. Ersin Nas, a legal expert and a conservative lawmaker, told Anadolu that he’s not in favor of filing an application for banning the far-right AfD party.

"Although it is widely debated among legal experts, I don't think we can achieve much by banning a political party. We need to stand against this party politically, we need to fight this party politically,” he stressed.

"My fear is that if the Constitutional Court turns down an application for a ban on the AfD, concluding that the legal conditions are not met, this may further strengthen this party. Therefore, I believe that we need to take more political steps rather than seeking legal measures” Nas added.

The far-right AfD party has significantly increased its vote share in recent years by campaigning against migration, stoking fears of Muslims and immigrants. The party has also benefited from widespread dissatisfaction with Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his coalition government, and fears of an economic downturn.

A poll published by Forsa institute on Tuesday found 17% of Germans plan to vote for the AfD, making it the second-strongest party after the conservative CDU/CSU bloc (30%).

The latest poll showed Chancellor Scholz's Social Democrat Party (SPD) at 14%, while its coalition partner, the Greens was at 15%, and the liberal Free Democrats (FDP), the junior coalition partner, at 5%.

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