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Intel Brief on Germany’s possible ban on the AfD


 


 

Date: 30/01/2024


Location: Germany


Who’s involved:

  • German government, Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), neonazi groups, civil society, Verfassungsschutz.


What happened?

  • The German nationalist anti-immigration party the Alternative Für Deutschland (AfD) is under scrutiny of the public prosecutors office (Verfassungsschutz), other political parties and civil society after members of its party were seen attending a meeting with neonazis and other right wing extremist groups. During the meeting the attendants decided that anyone living in Germany with an immigrant background should be deported as soon as possible, either voluntarily or not. When asked to create distance between the AfD members who were seen at the meeting, the AfD leadership changed the rhetoric and started to use the word “remigration” to frame the deportation plan in public debates and social media. 

  • In response to the doubling down of the AfD, political parties, trade unions, antifascist groups and other members of civil society organized several rounds of protests around the country calling for the AfD to be banned for being a “threat to democracy”. This is a judicial measure introduced in Germany after the collapse of the Nazi regime to prevent un-democratic parties from taking power again.

  • According to several media, police and organizers there seems to have been 1.4 million attendees at the anti-AfD protests. Several protests had to be disbanded prematurely because there were too many people who wanted to attend them.

  • The AfD is polling in second place in national elections polls, but is projected to get majority votes in the east of Germany in upcoming local elections in June 2024. The states of Sachsen, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Sachsen-Anhalt are likely to receive the majority of the AfD council seats.

  • Because of the projected popularity of the AfD in eastern Germany, it was expected that AfD candidate Uwe Thrum would win district elections in Saale-Orla in Thüringen on 28/01/2024. However, the AfD was defeated by CDU candidate Christian Herrgott. A poll by Forsa, published on 30/01/2024, showed that the support for the AfD dropped below 20% percent for the first time since July 2023.


Analysis:

  • Already in 2019, the public prosecutor’s office of Thuringen decided that the leader of the “Wing” of the AfD and its members should be under judicial review for being anti-democratic. The “Wing” is known for its more radical standpoints than the national side of the AfD. The leader of the “Wing”, Bjorn Hocke, has been indicted several times for quoting national socialist propaganda at rallies and his political immunity as a political party leader has been taken away. A court ruled in 2023 that the AfD should be considered a potential threat to democracy and should be put under surveillance by national security services. In the same year, AfD’s youth wing and the AfD faction in Thüringen were also officially labeled as extremist groups.

  • Discussions on banning the AfD started around August 2023, when co-leader Saskia Esken of the leading SPD party stated during an interview with newspaper Die Zeit that the party should be banned as it was classified by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution as right-wing extremist. Multiple other politicians followed Esken’s rhetoric and voiced their support for banning the AfD. 

  • The recent leaking of the AfD deportation plans together with the massive anti-AfD protests has sparked the discussion on banning the AfD again. The German state has in the past banned several extremist parties from taking part in elections or has disbanded them outright. Most of these parties had openly professed national socialist ideas and their members were involved in acts of criminal violence against. However, the banning of the extreme right wing National Party of Germany (NPD) was not completely successful since the judges on the case decided that the NPD was too small to form any danger to German democracy and therefore did not need to be banned. 

  • Whereas some German politicians have favored a ban, others are completely against it. The main worry is that banning the AfD might cause a backlash from AfD supporters. There are also voices who argue that banning a political party undermines the pillars of democracy. 


Conclusion:

It is still unclear whether the AFD will be legally banned by the German state, as there is not yet consensus among German politicians surrounding a possible ban. However, the leaked AfD plans and the massive anti-AfD protests will likely have implications for the popularity of the AfD. Previous AfD supporters might refrain from voting on the party during upcoming elections because of the societal pressure that is now within Germany. Furthermore, AfD opponents will possibly employ tactical votes to make it as difficult as possible for the party to maintain its stronghold. However, if politicians agree that there is no place for right wing extremism at all within the German political arena, a total ban of the AfD might happen. AfD supporters may respond to this by pushing more extreme rhetoric and ideas, and possibly turn to violent acts against the state, immigrants, or political opponents.


 

01_2024 Intel Brief Germany's possible ban on the AFD (1)
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