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Push to ban Germany’s far-right party quickens after link to neo-Nazi mass deportation plan

Mainstream political parties in Germany are discussing the feasibility of getting the popular far-right Alternative for Germany banned after it was linked to a neo-Nazi meeting where plans were discussed to deport masses of “foreigners.”

(CN) — Calls to ban Germany's strengthening far-right party, the Alternative für Deutschland, on grounds it's a threat to democracy are growing after some of its members took part in an event where plans were discussed about deporting masses of “foreigners,” including citizens deemed not to have adequately “assimilated” into German culture.

On Jan. 10, the German investigative news consortium Correctiv published an undercover account of a private political meeting in late November 2023 at a Potsdam hotel where far-right leaders and supporters brainstormed a plan to expel masses of people with immigrant backgrounds.

The event was headlined by Martin Sellner, an Austrian activist associated with neo-Nazi movements.

Other attendees included Roland Hartwig, a high-ranking member of the Alternative for Germany party and personal aide to co-party leader Alice Weidel. Following the revelations, Hartwig stepped down from his position.

Correctiv said the plan as presented by Sellner focused on the “reversed settlement” of asylum seekers, non-Germans with residency rights and “non-assimilated” German citizens to an unspecified “model state” in North Africa with room for some 2 million people. The event was billed as a “masterplan” for a “re-migration” policy.

“The scenarios sketched out in this hotel room in Potsdam all essentially boil down to one thing: People in Germany should be forcibly extradited if they have the wrong skin color, the wrong parents, or aren’t sufficiently 'assimilated' into German culture … even if they have German citizenship,” the Correctiv report said.

The exposé — with its deeply troubling echoes from Germany's Nazi past — is rocking a country that was already navigating through some of its most turbulent waters in recent decades due to a deepening economic and political crisis.

In the wake of the revelations thousands of Germans in cities across the country have held daily protests against the AfD, as the far-right party is known. Numerous demonstrations are scheduled this weekend against a party that has soared in opinions polls and is on track to win three state elections this fall in eastern Germany.

Meanwhile, discussion among Germany's mainstream parties of seeking to get the party banned by the Constitutional Court has accelerated.

After the Correctiv report, Chancellor Olaf Scholz, a Social Democrat, called on democrats to stand up to “fanatics” and he joined a march against the AfD in Potsdam.

“Learning from history is about more than just lip service. Democrats must stand together,” Scholz said on social media, a clear reference to Germany's Nazi past.

Though Scholz has stopped short of calling for a ban, other leaders within the Social Democrats backed such a move even before the Correctiv report.

The Greens, who are in a ruling coalition with the Social Democrats, may be willing to back a ban too.

On Wednesday, Robert Habeck, the Green economics minister and vice chancellor, said banning the AfD needed to be examined very carefully. “The damage that a failed attempt would cause would be massive. Which is why if a case is put, it would have to absolutely 100% stand up in court,” he told Stern, a German magazine.

He said the “hurdles are, as they should be, very high” and that the best scenario would be to beat the AfD at the polls.

But he warned the AfD is dangerous. “They want to turn Germany into a state like Russia and are systematically preparing for this,” he said.

Omid Nouripour, the Green party leader, said the AfD should be prosecuted “with the full force of the law” for its part in November’s meeting.

Even among Christian Democrats, the center-right opposition party, there are signs of growing support for a ban.

Hendrik Wüst, a Christian Democrat and prime minister of North Rhein-Westphalia, has branded the AfD a “dangerous Nazi party.”

Meanwhile, Marco Wanderwitz, a Christian Democratic parliamentarian, is trying to muster support to back a ban within the Bundestag. He believes a ban may be achievable.

The Christian Democrats face their own turmoil over the Potsdam meeting, after two members from its right-wing, grassroots Values Union group took part in the event.

Proponents of a ban say the Correctiv investigation provides further proof that the AfD is an anti-democratic party seeking to undermine the German constitution.

Since its founding in 2013, the AfD has repeatedly been accused of harboring members with neo-Nazi sympathies and lambasted for taking a harsh anti-European Union and anti-immigrant stance.

On Friday, the AfD did not respond immediately to a query for comment from Courthouse News. In a Jan. 11 statement, the party accused Correctiv of falsely linking AfD to the Potsdam meeting. It said the party had no official connection to the event and that its members attended as private individuals.

However, it acknowledged that it has made “re-migration” part of its political platform, though it said its proposals are “in line with the free-democratic basic order” and are based around stopping illegal immigration and deporting people who are not residing legally in Germany.

Similar “re-migration” policies have become popular across the EU among far-right supporters who see illegal immigration from Muslim countries as the bloc's main threat. A large influx of asylum seekers and immigrants in recent years has fueled a rise in far-right parties across the EU.

However, the AfD and other hard-right parties are hardly alone in demanding tougher policies against illegal immigration and asylum seekers. Indeed, the EU as a whole is taking a much tougher stance on migrants with more border controls and faster deportation procedures.

On Friday the Bundestag in Berlin passed legislation to make it easier to deport asylum seekers and in recent comments Scholz has backed faster deportations.

Under Germany's Basic Law, there are provisions to bar political parties deemed a threat to democracy. Written in the wake of World War II, the law was intended to prevent the return of authoritarianism after the Nazi defeat and incorporated numerous checks and balances and safeguards.

Still, it remains highly uncertain that the high court would take such a step, though it has banished parties in the past.

In 1952, the Socialist Reich Party, an heir to the Nazi party, was banned and the Communist Party of Germany was prohibited in 1956.

Then in 2017, the court examined whether to ban the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party. The court found it met the criteria for a ban, but determined it too small to endanger German democracy.

The AfD, though, presents an entirely different scenario for a ban because it has grown to become a formidable and popular force in German politics and a ban likely would spark widespread anger.

Over the past year, AfD has ridden high in polls and it is now ranked as the country's second most popular party with about 22% of voters' support. Only the Christian Democrats lead them with about 30% of support.

Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.

Follow @cainburdeau
Categories / Government, Immigration, International, Politics

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