Mar 122016
 

Mit Katrin Heise von Deutschlandradio Kultur habe ich ein ausführliches über Rechtspopulismus gestern und heute und über den Umgang mit der AfD geführt.

Mar 112016
 

On Wednesday, I was live on NPR’s Worldview program talking about the possible ban of the NPD, the rise of the AfD, and the implications for the EU. That sounds like a lot of acronyms, but then again, 15 minutes was more than the 90 seconds of soundbites I had budgeted for 🙂

 

Mar 042016
 
Unbalanced Scale Silhouette

After a subjective decade, the trial that could lead to a ban of the right-wing extremist NPD, Germany’s oldest surviving Extreme Right party, has finally begun this week. That alone is news: Last time around, a blocking minority of the judges was so concerned about the unknown informers within the party’s leadership that the proceedings came to an end during the pre-trial phase. But to dissolve the party, six of the eight judges will have to vote in favour of a ban.

So what have we learned from three days of hearings? Not too much, actually. The court’s president said that this time, they were not fussed about any informers, but that was clear from the day that a date for the hearing was announced.

On the second day, the judges posed some very awkward questions to the counsel for the prosecution. After all, the NPD is nearly bankrupt, has only several thousand members, and has lost most of its parliamentary representation a while ago. There were some points in its 50+ year history when it has been weaker, but not too many, so why ban it now? So everyone was mentally preparing for yet another embarrassing failure to get rid of the NPD.Unbalanced Scale Silhouette

But then, on the final day of the hearings, the mood seemed to change: Experts and witnesses from the north-eastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the party’s remaining stronghold of sorts, spoke of the atmosphere of fear and threats that has engulfed many villages and smaller towns in this region. According to their testimony, the NPD forms the organisational backbone of a large-scale right-wing extremist network for which they provide funds and political cover. Although their membership and electoral support are dwindling, they could pose a danger to democracy, at least at the regional level. The judges seemed quite impressed.

So what will happen next? We don’t know. The judges will now ponder the evidence for an indefinite number of months before they come up with a verdict. If they decide that the party is indeed unconstitutional, this would be the first such ban since 1956, and the NPD might challenge the decision in the European Court of Human Rights, creating unprecedented legal complications. And if the court throws out the case again, it does not take a seer to predict that there will be no new attempt to ban a party in a couple of decades. Either way, their verdict will be a landmark in the legal-constitutional history of the Federal Republic.

Dec 072015
 
Unbalanced Scale Silhouette

Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court has inched a little closer towards banning Germany’s oldest far-right party. After pondering the issue (and more importantly, the evidence) for a mere two years, the court has formally opened the proceedings that could result in a ban. A previous attempt to outlaw the NPD collapsed in 2003 because of the very large number of informers in the party’s leadership whose identity the government refused to reveal even to the high judges. This time around, the court has declared itself satisfied that the evidence is not contaminated.

Whether the party will eventually ban the NPD is a different question. The court will revisit the case in March 2016. Here is a short piece from Deutsche Welle that provides some background on the issue.

 

Nov 112015
 

I got some flak for my piece on the Pegida movement, which I wrote for the Monkey Cage, but it was mostly surprisingly polite (my favourite one was “Professor of Fairies”. That one will definitively go on my new calling cards). Most of the commenters suggested that I was trying to brownwash Pegida when I suggested that the movement is radicalising, and that there are links to the Extreme Right. Well, here is another one.

dresden 1938 photo

Photo by nemodoteles

Last Monday was the 77th anniversary of the nation-wide November pogroms directed against Jewish citizens, business, schools, hospitals, synagogues, and private homes that preluded the holocaust. While the day itself enjoys no special legal protection, it is widely seen as an occasion for quiet introspection and public remembrance. In this context, many had appealed to the Pegida organisers to cancel their usual Monday night rally.

The demonstration went ahead nonetheless, including the usual rituals. It was capped by a speech by Tatjana Festerling, a former member of the AfD. Festerling channeled the spirit of the day by demanding an end to “Nazi paranoia” and the “cult of guilt”. “Cult of guilt” (Schuldkult) is a phrase that was coined in the early 1990s. It is a highly loaded term that is used almost exclusively by the NPD and other right-wing extremist groups whenever the crimes of the Nazis are mentioned. That Festerling would use that word, on that day, and that the crowds would cheer, is significant.

May 152015
 
NPD photo

Photo by ubiquit23

If you are following the latest attempt to have Germany’s right-wing extremist NPD declared unconstitutional, you might be disappointed by the lack of news. Today, the federal states that push for such a ban have submitted four folders with additional evidence requested by the Federal Constitutional Court – evidence corroborating the states’ claim that they have “switched off” their many informers in time for the new trial. Last time round (in 2002/3), a qualified minority of judges had refused to hear the case against the NPD, because in their view, the party’s leadership had been infiltrated on a scale that made it impossible for the party to act autonomously. The request for new evidence does not bode well for the prosecution. The court is expected to decide in autumn whether they allow the case to go past the pre-trial stage.

Apr 072014
 

You could not possibly make this up. Amidst a legal-constitutional battle over the NPD’s survival, the General Secretary (top executive manager) of Germany’s oldest right-wing extremist party NPD resigns over what is by now affectionately known as the Saarbrücken Penis Cake Affair. The story (as ridiculous as it gets) also involves Miss Nationalist Santa, and a lot of backstabbing hidden behind the moral outrage. Publikative has the full story and the original reporting (in German), whereas Spiegel Online (also in German and apparently a bit lax on the reporting part) has the pictures (if you absolutely have to see them).

Feb 262014
 

What Did the Court Say?

The German Constitutional Court ruled today that Germany’s three per cent electoral threshold for European elections is unconstitutional because it violates the principle of equality. The ruling was not exactly a surprise: In 2011, the court had already abolished a five per cent electoral threshold on account of the European Union not being a parliamentary system that would require large and coherent parliamentary groups and stable majorities. The three per cent threshold was enacted only last October in a constitutional gamble. Lawmakers wanted to keep smaller parties out of the EP, although they were perfectly aware that the logic of the first ruling would probably rule out a lower threshold, too.

Verhandlung über das Bundeswahlrecht vor dem Bundesverfassungsgericht
Mehr Demokratie e.V. / Foter / CC BY-SA

What Are the Consequences?

The court has just made a bunch of smaller parties very happy. Germany has 99 seats in the EP, so without a legal threshold, the effective threshold is just over one per cent. The AfD is currently polling around six per cent, so unless something dramatic happens, the ruling virtually guarantees them representation in the next parliament. That would give the AfD  a parliamentary foothold that they will use to establish themselves firmly in the German polity.

Things also haven’t looked so good for the Pirates and the NPD in a long time. The latter case is particularly interesting: If the Constitutional Court should ban the NPD further down the line, their MPs would lose their seats under German law. Will this also apply to MEPs?