Tuesday, March 05, 2013
German far-right NPD party suffers court setback
BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's constitutional court on Tuesday rejected an attempt by the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) to win greater legal protection by being declared to be in conformity with the constitution.
The NPD, branded "racist, anti-Semitic and revisionist" by Germany's domestic intelligence service, had hoped the court would rule that it is "loyal to the constitution" and thus undermine a bid by lawmakers to have it banned.
Explaining its rejection of the NPD suit, the court said a political party could not ask for a ruling on its own constitutionality.
The court also rejected the NPD's complaints against the German parliament and government that they were damaging its democratic rights with their talk of banning the party.
Political analysts said the ruling was unlikely to have any bearing on an eventual court decision on whether to ban it.
"That is a separate issue, though today's ruling is certainly a defeat for the NPD, which had hoped to improve its standing among the public," said Gero Neugebauer, a political scientist at Berlin's Free University.
The upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, which represents the 16 federal states, is pressing ahead with a legal bid to ban the NPD but Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right government is split about whether to back the initiative.
Banning political parties is especially sensitive in Germany, still haunted by memories of Nazi and Communist regimes which silenced dissent.
Opponents of the drive to ban the NPD say it would give the party free publicity. They also fear a ban would merely push it underground and make it more difficult to monitor.
An attempt to ban the NPD in 2003 collapsed and Merkel has said she wants to be sure any new case is watertight as she does not want to risk failure a second time round that could help legitimise the NPD in the eyes of some voters.
In a sign of the divisions on the issue within Merkel's coalition, which faces elections in September, Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich suggested last month that the government would come up with its own plan to ban the NPD but a day later backtracked, saying there was no such decision.
The NPD, which has described the German constitution as a "diktat" imposed by victorious Western powers after the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945 at the end of World War Two, has no representatives at the federal level but has seats in two state assemblies in eastern Germany.
(Reporting by Gareth Jones; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)