The premiers of Germany’s 16 states have decided to pursue a ban of an extreme-right political party. However, the federal government has not thrown its support behind the bid - at least not yet.
Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in Berlin on Thursday that before making a final decision, the federal government would take the next several weeks to study the case the state governments had made for launching a fresh bid to ban the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD).
"We haven't yet completed the process of forming an opinion," the chancellor said, adding that the government would announce its decision sometime in the first quarter of 2013.
Merkel described the amount of evidence the states had gathered to demonstrate that the NPD poses a threat to democracy as "impressive." At the same time, though, she said that a high degree of risk was associated with such a move. Merkel also noted that banning the NPD, which is seen as being close to violent neo-Nazi groups, was just one facet of efforts to combat right-wing extremism.
The chancellor's statement followed an almost unanimous agreement reached by the state premiers in a meeting in Rostock earlier in the day to pursue a bid to ban the NPD. This followed a meeting of their interior ministers on Wednesday. The premiers could use an upcoming meeting of the Bundesrat, which represents the states at the federal level, to officially launch the bid. While they have said they would prefer to pursue a ban with the support of the federal government, they can go ahead without it.
No shortage of skepticism
However, the chancellor is by no means alone in her skepicism. Earlier, Justice Minister Sabine Leutheuser-Schnarrenberger expressed the fear that renewed attempt to ban the NPD end in a similar fate as a previous bid. Speaking to the daily paper Die Welt, Leutheuser-Scharrenberger warned that the risk of failure was "not necessarily less" than the first time around.
The previous attempt was struck down in 2003 by Germany's constitutional court because security services' informants placed high in the party's ranks had been used as key witnesses.
Leutheuser-Scharrenberger warned that even if Germany's constitutional court didn't strike it down this time, the NPD could also lodge an appeal at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich has also repeatedly stressed the danger of a second failed attempt. Following the state interior ministers meeting, Friedrich warned that “such an application (to ban the NPD) could revive a party that has been going south.” At the same time though, he said he was convinced that "we've got better evidence against the NPD than in 2003."
Any attempt to get the NPD banned is bound to use parts of Article 21 of Germany's constitution, which deals with the organization of political parties.
"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," Article 21 states.
There is one legal precedent for outlawing a party in post-war Germany. The Communist Party of Germany (KPD) was abolished in 1956 - against the backdrop of a then-recently-divided Germany and concerns of a Soviet spread to the west - on the basis of Article 21.
pfd/dr (dpa, DAPD, AFP, Reuters)