Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has said it will block an opposition bid to persuade parliament to ask the Constitutional Court to ban a neo-Nazi party. Germany's regional states decided in December to seek a ban.
Germany's opposition center-left Social Democrats pressed the Bundestag parliament during debate in Berlin on Thursday to formally ask the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe to ban of the far-right National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD).
But, hours earlier, the interior affairs spokesman of Merkel's conservative-liberal parliamentary group, Hans-Peter Uhl reiterated the governing coalition's decision in March not to file such a Bundestag application in Karlsruhe.
Uhl of the conservative Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) party told the public broadcaster SWR on Thursday that the NPD posed "no danger" to democracy in Germany because it drew "nil votes."
Any bid to ban the NPD overlooked the need for society in general to ensure that anti-Semitism and anti-foreigner sentiment were given no chances, Uhl added.
The Social Democrats' parliamentary group leader Thomas Oppermann told parliament that it was factually undeniable that the NDP had "prepared the ground" for aggressive acts of violence in Germany.
The Bundestag application sought was a "very serious matter," said Oppermann, adding that history showed that early intervention was needed against neo-Nazi parties.
Regional states to proceed
The drive against the NPD was given new momentum last year after it had emerged that a neo-Nazi cell was behind the murders of 10 residents in Germany, mostly of Turkish origin, between 2000 and 2007.
Last December, the Bundesrat upper house of parliament, which represents Germany's 16 regional states and city states, voted unanimously to file an application to the court to ban the NPD.
Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberg warned in March that "major obstacles" remained due to fears that if the constitutional court rejected an application on procedural or evidential grounds this would embolden the xenophobic, racist party.
Federal Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said in March that the federal government would not strive for an application in the Bundestag lower chamber.
His ministry added that it would continue to "systematically" collect evidence against the NPD for the Bundesrat upper house case.
A similar attempt to ban the NPD failed before the court in 2003.
The NPD was founded in 1964 with the help of former Nazis. It has never won seats in Germany's post-war federal parliament, but it is represented in small numbers in two regional state parliaments.
Germany's security services have said that the NPD promotes a racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic agenda that is unconstitutional.
ipj/ccp (AP, AFP, dpa)