Mar 282008
 

Udo Voigt, the leader of the NPD, has been charged with inciting racial hatred. During the 2006 World Cup, the party published a pamphlet that questioned the right of non-white players in the squad to represent Germany in the tournament. The NPD is the oldest amongst the three relevant extreme right parties in Germany. Founded in the early 1960s, the party was successful in a number of Land elections but could not overcome the 5 per cent threshold in the General election of 1969. For more than three decades, the party that once had tens of thousands of members and even set up its own student organisation barely survived as a political sect but played no role in electoral politics. If you can read German, here is a chapter on extremist parties and their voters with lots of fascinating details on Germany I wrote for a handbook on electoral behaviour.

Voigt was elected as party leader in 1996 and quickly modernised the party. His aggressive and dynamic stance persuaded the Federal government to apply for a ban of the party in the Federal Constitutional Court in 2003. The case was thrown out on procedural grounds, and for the first time in 40 years, the party managed to win seats in two state elections in 2004 and 2006.

However, the charges against Voigt are just the latest political blow for the party and its current leadership. After 2006, there have been no more electoral successes. Moreover, the party is involved in dubious financial transactions. The party treasurer was taken into custody in February, and the party must repay huge amounts of money it had claimed under Germany’s state-sponsored party-funding scheme. Voigt stands for re-election as party leader in May, and there might well be a leadership contest.

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