Germany Puts Far-Right Party Under Suspicion of Extremism
(Bloomberg) -- Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration put the far-right AfD party under surveillance as a possible threat to democracy, the first such move against a group in Germany’s parliament since World War II.
The domestic intelligence service is monitoring Alternative for Germany, the biggest opposition party in the Bundestag, for potential violations of rules protecting human dignity and democracy, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the decision hasn’t been publicly announced.
The party vowed to challenge the move -- first reported by Spiegel magazine -- calling it a baseless, politically motivated attack designed to hurt the party in a busy election year.
“We will exhaust all legal possibilities in order to avert this damage as much as possible,” Joerg Meuthen and Tino Chrupalla, co-heads of the party, said in a statement.
While a group within the AfD was already being monitored, placing the entire party on an extremist watch list could be a blow ahead of key state elections and a national vote that will decide Merkel’s successor in September.
Steve Alter, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, which oversees the domestic intelligence service, declined to comment, citing a policy of not discussing ongoing proceedings.
A spokeswoman for the intelligence agency, known as the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, declined to comment to Spiegel. According to the agency’s website, a case of suspicions can be opened against organizations when there is sufficient indications of extremist efforts.
Under an agreement in a case at a Cologne court, the agency agreed to not disclose to the public if the AfD was put on the watch list while the litigation is pending. Meuthen and Chrupalla said that this has now been breached.
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“The AfD has often shown that it wants to undermine our democracy,” Katja Mast, a lawmaker for the ruling Social Democrats, said in a tweet and expressing support for the decision. “It pursues this strategy on many levels.”
The party was founded in 2013 to protest Merkel’s backing for bailing out Greece, and its support surged due to the 2015 refugee crisis. In the most recent federal election in 2017, the AfD became the largest opposition group with just under 13% of the vote. Since then, it has slipped to fourth behind the Greens and the Social Democrats, polling at about 10% in voter-intention surveys.
Merkel’s CDU/CSU bloc has support of around 33% and is expected to lead the next government after the Sept. 26 vote, possibly in alliance with the Greens.
With a strong power base in the former communist East, the AfD has become a serious threat by appealing to Germans disaffected by Merkel’s globalist approach and unsettled by advances in technology.
“The right-wing extremists set the tone in the AfD,” Markus Blume, general secretary of the CSU party in Merkel’s bloc, said in a tweet. “We will continue to fight the AfD politically. It doesn’t belong in parliaments.”
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