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Bid to outlaw the NPD

March 2, 2016

At the outset of a court hearing on a bid to outlaw the far-right NPD, party members were edgy. DW's Marcel Fürstenau, however, doubts the German federal states' arguments for the ban are strong enough.

Deutschland Bundesverfassungsgericht Verfahren NPD
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/dpaweb/U. Deck

Ostensibly, the National Democratic Party (NPD) appears to be true to its name. The commitment to Germany's free democratic basic order is in the party program, said Peter Richter. The lawyer represents the NPD, a party that is, in all truth, far-right and whose future is on the line before the Federal Constitutional Court.

When push comes to shove, however, the 'national' in their name is more important to the splinter party than 'democratic.' More than that, the NPD sees 'national' as meaning Germany above all, while it's safe to say 'democratic' is mere camouflage.

Nobody juggles words as expertly as this party does. Richter calls the party's dismissive stance on other cultures and ethnicities, foreigners and refugees a "social ideology," but by no means a "racial ideology." What a subtle, nasty distinction. The NPD unfailingly shows its true colors when appealing to baser human instincts. NPD election campaign posters wish Muslims a "good trip home" on flying carpets. The image could conceivably be taken from a satirical magazine - but the NPD is dead serious.

Racist, anti-Semitic

The same applies to a poster displayed in front of the Jewish Museum in Berlin, showing former party leader Udo Voigt on a motorcycle with the caption: "Gas geben!"- which means, step on the gas. Such crude expressions constantly position the NPD just a hair's breadth away from sedition - apart from the fact that the slogans are anti-Semitic.

But is that enough to ban the party? Stanislaw Tillich, the President of Germany's Bundesrat upper house of Parliament, describes the NPD as "politically significant" and "dangerous." Tillich, who is also premier in the eastern state of Saxony, leads the bid to ban the extreme-right party. It's a risky claim.

Marcel Fürstenau
DW's Marcel FürstenauImage: DW/S. Eichberg

In 2014, the NPD didn't win enough votes to enter parliament once again in Saxony. Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is the only federal state where the party is represented.

There are no legally convincing arguments to blame the NPD for the fact that the state of Saxony is particularly susceptible to far-right and even rightwing extremist ideas. The present court case revolves around the question whether the party is unconstitutional, and not whether the Pegida movement or the rightwing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) are siphoning off NPD supporters.

Infiltrated by informers?

In any case, during the first session on Tuesday, the judges didn't appear to be very understanding of the NPD's crude view of the world.

All the same, they had quite a few critical questions for the Bundesrat - which had initiated the ban request - concerning the questionable practice of informers for the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. A previous attempt to ban the NPD in 2003 failed because most of the evidence came from state informers.

Doubtful whether informers might still play a role this time around, the Constitutional Court's judges urged amendments before they even accepted the request.

That's why the Bundesrat is optimistic - but it shouldn't be too confident. What are the consequences of not planting informers for the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the judges asked? The answer: The image of the NPD has become "more blurry." Somehow, the answer matches the ban request since the hearing has by no means given observers a clearer view of the unsavory party.

It's still too early to assess which way the judges will rule in the end, however.

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