German Leaders Fear A Proposed Ban On The Neo-Nazi Party Could Backfire

Dresden Nazi
Neo-Nazis in Dresden.

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Germany moved closer to a fresh bid to ban neo-Nazi party NPD Thursday after state leaders backed the move, but Chancellor Angela Merkel said her government needed more time to weigh its chances of success.Merkel said the federal government would make up its mind on whether to support a new attempt to outlaw the party in the country’s top court “in the first quarter of next year”.

“We have not yet formed our opinion. There is an impressive collection of evidence… but on the other hand, there are also, from our point of view, some legal risks,” the chancellor told reporters.

However, the leaders of Germany’s 16 states unanimously agreed during a meeting to follow the recommendation of their interior ministers, who Wednesday backed the proposed ban despite fears the effort could backfire.

The Federal Constitutional Court alone holds the power to strike down a political party. Only the federal government, the Bundestag lower house of parliament and the Bundesrat upper house, where the 16 states are represented, can apply for such a ban.

In 2003, a similar attempt spearheaded by the federal government fizzled because the tribunal found that the presence of intelligence agents who had infiltrated the party’s ranks muddied the case against it.

That failed bid stalks the current proceedings, which were prompted by the discovery in November 2011 that a far-right cell was likely behind a rash of killings over a seven-year period in which most of the 10 victims were immigrant shopkeepers.

Shortly after the interior ministers’ decision, an office of the chairman of a parliamentary committee set up to shed light on the murders was attacked and the letter box damaged, police said.

The state leaders agreed the Bundesrat would decide on a motion for a ban on December 14.

A petition would then be drawn up, expected to be completed towards the end of the first three months of next year, which would then be sent to the Constitutional Court, Thuringia state leader Christine Lieberknecht told reporters.

Merkel said that regardless of the issue of the ban, she and the state leaders were agreed on the need to fight rightwing extremism in all its forms.

“That is a general question for our entire society and cannot be answered just via the question of a party ban,” she added.

Founded in 1964 with the help of former Nazis, the NPD has never won seats in the federal parliament and in 2009 scored just 1.5 per cent of the vote — far from the five per cent needed for representation.

It currently has deputies in two regional parliaments in the former communist east.

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