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The case for monitoring the AfD

September 3, 2018

As politicians call for the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party to be monitored by domestic security authorities, DW looks at the criteria that must be met for this to happen. 

Deutschland, Hamburg: Symbolbild AFD und der Verfassungsschutz
Image: picture-alliance/M. Scholz

This past weekend, Thuringia's AfD chief Björn Höcke took part in a march organized by the far-right, anti-Islam group, PEGIDA – an incident that shows "how the AfD and the neo-Nazis cooperate," according to Thomas Oppermann, vice president of the German Bundestag. 

Oppermann is just one of the senior politicians echoing calls for the AfD to be subject to surveillance by the country's domestic security agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, or BfV.

The BfV's tasks and powers

The BfV is charged with collecting and analyzing information on:

1. Efforts directed against the free democratic basic order or against the existence and the security of the federation or one of its states

2. Intelligence activities carried out on behalf of a foreign power 

3. Efforts jeopardizing foreign interests of the Federal Republic of Germany by the use of violence or the preparation thereof

4. Efforts directed against the idea of international understanding, especially against the peaceful coexistence of peoples

For the most part, information is gathered in two ways.

1. By open, generally accessible sources, including newspapers, flyers, programs and public events

2. By the use of intelligence means including the handling of individuals recruited from the extremist scene, covert surveillance, and, if necessary, mail and telephone interception, which is subject to authorization

Bremen, Lower Saxony monitor AfD youth wings 

The federal government has so far said that it does not see a case for making the far-right populist party as a whole subject to BfV surveillance – even after recent events in the eastern city of Chemnitz, where it played a part in the unrest and protests that surged against foreigners after two migrants were charged in the fatal stabbing of a German man.

Presenting the BfV's 2017 report, the head of the agency Hans-Georg Maassen and Interior Minister Horst Seehofer deemed it unnecessary to monitor the AfD as a whole
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/W. Kumm

The states of Bremen and Lower Saxony have meanwhile placed the AfD regional youth wings (Youth Alternative, or JA for short) under observation, with Lower Saxony's Interior Minister Boris Pistorius branding the JA an "unconstitutional organization." 

An eye on the NPD 

The BfV does, however, monitor other groups on the far-right spectrum such as the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), as well as The Right and The Third Way. But two failed attempts to have the openly unconstitutional neo-Nazi NPD banned once and for all show the kinds of limitations the agency faces.

The first attempt failed in 2003 due to the many BfV informers at the head of the NPD, and the next attempt failed in 2016 because of a lack of political relevance: the party isn't present in a single German state parliament. 

Leftist organizations under surveillance

It's not just right-wing extremist groups that are on the agency's radar, though. For years, the BfV has also been observing "openly extremist structures" on the far-left of the political spectrum, including the Marxist Forum (MF), the Anti-Capitalist Left (AKL) and the Communist Platform (KPF).


Marcel Fürstenau
Marcel Fürstenau Berlin author and reporter on current politics and society.