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Wednesday, 27 April 2011

German state launches renewed move to ban far-right NPD

The interior minister in the eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt has announced he's preparing a new proposal to ban the far-right German National Party (NPD).

Holger Stahlknecht, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, also invited other states to take part in the action.

"We want to push forward proceedings with the necessary judicial care," Stahlknecht said in the state capital Halle.

However, he also warned against people against getting their hopes up about a possible ban.

"If the NPD is gone, the problem of right-wing extremism won't just disappear."

The NPD are often labeled as a neo-Nazi organization. The party is classified by Germany’s internal security agency as a "threat to the constitutional order" because of its extremist philosophy. The NPD currently has seats in two of German's 16 state parliaments, but none at federal level.

According to the German constitution only central government has the power to apply for such a ban through the courts. Opinions are divided as to whether the party should be banned.

Muted response from other states

There was a mixed response to the call for a ban from other German states. The interior minister in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein was cautious about the idea. Christian Democrat Klaus Schlie told the news agency dpa that he would need convincing and concrete arguments before he decided to support the bid.

"Another failure in court would be fatal," he said, referring to a similar attempt to ban the NPD in 2003.

When that case came before the Federal Constitutional Court, it was thrown out after it was revealed that a number of the NPD's inner circle were in fact undercover agents or informants of the German secret services. Since the government bodies were unwilling to fully disclose their agents' identities and activities, the court found it impossible to reach a verdict.

The head of the Committee on Internal Affairs in the German parliament, Wolfgang Bosbach said in the light of the 2003 trial, he was completely against the idea of banning the NPD.

"I would advise against it," the Christian Democrat politician told the local Mitteldeutsche Zeitung.

He explained he understood the concerns of Saxony-Anhalt, since the problem with the German National Party was more significant in the eastern states than in the western states, but he said the risks were too great.

"We would have to take the undercover agents out of the NPD," Bosbach said. "And that would entail a long-term observation of the party."

Bosbach said it was clear that the NPD's policies went against the constitution. But in order to ban the party, it would have to be proven in court that the party acted in a aggressive, militant way against the free democratic basic order. That was the biggest hurdle, he said.