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Germany

German far-right party faces internal conflict and financial ruin

After an embezzlement scandal and continued in-fighting at Germany's extreme right NPD political party, questions have been raised about its future, particularly in a major election year.

A large crowd of skinheads stand with an NPD flag

The NPD is considered by many as a successor of the Nazi party

Germany's National Democratic Party has until May 1 to come up with 2.2 million euros ($2.9 million) to pay a fine for accounting irregularities. The order from the German parliament came after party treasurer Erwin Keman was jailed last year for siphoning off hundreds of thousands of euros for his own company.

The NPD is appealing the fine, but if the appeal fails, the party will be on the brink of financial ruin and will be lacking the funds it needs to campaign for the upcoming federal and state elections.

The accounting scandal has caused tension within the party and has weakened the authority of its leader Udo Voigt. Despite this, Voigt still managed to win a recent leadership challenge by Udo Pastoers, the NPD leader in the Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania state parliament.

NPD leader Udo Voigt

Voigt has led the party since 1996

Richard Stoess, an expert on the NPD from Berlin's Free University, says the recent internal conflict shows that there is much criticism of Voigt's leadership.

"But the criticism is not so strong that they would dump the party leadership and vote another person into the position," says Stoess.

A boost from the financial crisis

The NPD may be facing a financial crisis internally, but some analysts believe that the global financial crisis may in fact boost support for the far-right. There are fears that if unemployment soars as a result of economic turmoil, then voters will turn to the NPD.

Voigt showed himself confident his party will do well in state elections later this year, despite its financial problems.

"I think we've got good chances in three state parliaments," he said.

The NPD is currently represented in two states: Saxony with eight representatives and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania with six. The party is expected to do well again in the upcoming elections. The NPD could also win the five percent required to gain representation in the state of Thuringia.

German voters also head to the polls in September for the federal election. The NPD has so far failed in its attempt to enter federal parliament, winning only 1.6 percent at the last election in 2005.

Members of the NPD stand in front of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate with an NPD flag

The domestic intelligence service called the NPD a "threat to constitutional order"

An ideological divide

Underlying the NPD's current problems is an ongoing ideological divide between different factions of the party.

One side wants to promote a more moderate form of right-wing conservatism in order to attract a broader support base, but the other side wants to maintain links with groups considered more radical and potentially violent.

Richard Stoess says this second faction of the NPD believes the party is too meek and too much a part of the existing political system.

"They say it has to become more revolutionary and more nationalistic and that it should align itself more closely with independent groups and with the neo-Nazis," Stoess says.

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