“Deeply undemocratic” campaign aims to isolate Alternative für Deutschland, Germany’s second most-popular party.

A court in Germany ruled on Monday, May 13th that the anti-globalist, anti-immigration party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) can be designated as a “suspected extremist organisation.” This means that the domestic intelligence agency, Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV), has the right to spy on the party, using such intelligence tools as phone tapping, intercepting emails, or recruiting informants from inside the party.

In its verdict, the court said “there is sufficient evidence that the AfD pursues goals that run against the human dignity of certain groups and against democracy.” The judges added: “There are grounds to suspect at least part of the party wants to accord second-rank status to German citizens with a migration background.” Interior Minister Nancy Faeser welcomed the ruling as showing that the “state has instruments that protect our democracy from threats from within.”

After the ruling, Saxony’s justice minister Katja Meier (Greens) called for a task force to collect intelligence in preparation for a potential AfD ban. She said the court decision “strengthens our robust democracy; now the chances of success of a ban procedure must be examined in concrete terms.” 

AfD in Saxony responded on X by saying “the enemies of democracy sit in the government”:

With her call for a ban, Justice Minister Katja Meier is showing that she rejects democratic competition for the best ideas. Instead of solving the problems in our country, the government wants to punish those who point out these problems. This is deeply undemocratic.

Ultimately, I am grateful to Ms Meier for her frank words. They prove that the#Verfassungsschutz is being abused politically and has long since mutated into the#Regierungsschutz. Instead of a functioning, fair constitutional state, Ms Meier wants a Stasi 2.0.

#AfDVerbot? Das will die sächsische Justizministerin Katja Meier von den #Gruenen.@Joerg_UrbanAfD erwidert darauf:

„Mit ihrer Verbotsforderung zeigt Justizministerin Katja Meier, dass sie den demokratischen Wettbewerb um die besten Ideen ablehnt. Statt die Probleme in unserem… pic.twitter.com/IcHweFmXUd

— AfD-Fraktion Sachsen (@AfD_SLT) May 13, 2024

The BfV initially labelled the AfD as a “suspected right-wing extremist group” three years ago. The AfD challenged this designation first in a lower court which upheld the intelligence agency’s decision, and then in the upper court in Münster, which rejected AfD’s appeal on Monday. The party will likely appeal this decision as well at a federal level.

The verdict was no surprise given that the political elite in Germany has for years been attempting to undermine the party, whose popularity has been steadily rising. The AfD is currently the second highest polling party in Germany with around 18-19% support, and is the most favoured party among voters in their 20s. It will likely become the largest force in three Eastern states—Brandenburg, Saxony, and Thuringia—which are holding state elections this autumn.

Critics say that the country’s institutions are being weaponised to persecute a political opponent supported by many millions of German voters who are disillusioned with the ruling elite.

According to conservative publication Tichys Einblick, the court ruling will not immediately affect the AfD, but could have a devastating effect on the future of the party. The AfD will now be portrayed as a danger to democracy—even more so than before, the newspaper writes.

It will probably be much more difficult for the party to open up to new supporter groups. Civil servants and other employees in the public sector will think twice about making their sympathy for the party known. Nancy Faeser will continue to try to criminalise money transfers to the AfD and its affiliations—i.e. to everything that is somehow “right-wing”, i.e., does not belong to the ruling green-left class. All this clearly serves the goal of making it more difficult for the party to access resources—both human and financial.

“If you want to know how to really ruin a democracy, you only have to look at Berlin these days,” Tichys Einblick summarises.

The stigmatising of the party will likely continue, with the BfV aiming to classify the AfD as “proven right-wing extremist,” a label already officially used for the youth wing of the party, Junge Alternative, as well as three regional branches of the party in Thuringia, Saxony, and Saxony-Anhalt. This classification would allow for even more increased surveillance of the group and its members’ activities. According to conservative publication Apollo News, the next step would be banning the party, something several politicians of mainstream parties have already called for long before today’s court ruling.

Some of the arguments made for branding the AfD as “extremist” have since been refuted, as was a hit piece by the government-funded leftist-liberal media outlet Correctiv which falsely accused the party of planning to “deport millions of Germans with a migrant background.” Mainstream parties have also been agitating against the AfD and organising protests against “right-wing violence” after a Social Democrat politician was physically assaulted while campaigning on the street. However, to date, AfD politicians have endured the most physical violence. On Sunday night, unknown perpetrators threw stones at the house of an AfD city councillor in Halle, breaking several windows, and tried to set fire to the building.

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