German AfD Party Under Scrutiny as Potential Threat to Democracy

(Bloomberg) -- Germany’s domestic intelligence agency will intensify its monitoring of the far-right Alternative for Germany with a view to placing the anti-immigrant party under formal observation as a potential threat to democracy.

The BfV, which is responsible for tackling extremism and dealing with threats to the constitution, has given the AfD the status of “test case,” the agency’s president, Thomas Haldenwang, said at a news conference in Berlin. The party’s youth wing and a group around lawmaker Bjoern Hoecke in the eastern state of Thuringia have been designated “suspicious cases,” he added.

“The BfV has the first actual evidence of a policy by the AfD directed against the free, democratic order,” Haldenwang said. The evidence includes anti-Muslim and anti-foreigner statements by AfD members that are incompatible with the constitutional right to human dignity but is not yet compelling enough to warrant a formal observation using “intelligence service methods.”

The AfD entered the Bundestag, or lower house of parliament, for the first time at the most recent general election in 2017, winning almost 13 percent of the vote. Bolstered by dissatisfaction with mainstream politics and concerns about migration, the party has since increased support to about 15 percent, level with the Social Democrats.

AfD co-leader Alice Weidel said the BfV is being used as a means of combating an “undesirable political rival” and an attempt is being made to frighten voters before this year’s European and regional elections. Alexander Gauland, another AfD co-leader, told reporters the party will take legal action.

“Damning material was being sought in vain for months but nothing was found that would justify a formal observation by the BfV,” Weidel said. “The decision on an observation has not yet been taken at all, but the test case nonetheless represents a prejudgment.”

Eva Hoegl, a deputy SPD leader in parliament, said the BfV’s decision is “correct and long overdue.”

“Parts of the party have direct links to the right-wing extremist scene and are clearly anti-constitutional,” she said in an emailed statement. “This is a first step toward calling a halt to anti-constitutional tendencies within the AfD.”

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.