Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hands Off Germany’s Neo-Nazi Party

by Lucian Kim

New York Times

December 18, 2012

Last Friday appeared to be a good day for German democracy. The Bundesrat, or upper house of Parliament, voted to ban the extreme-right National Democratic Party for trying to undermine the country’s constitutional order with its “anti-Semitic, racist and xenophobic stance.” The party, known by its German initials N.P.D., regrets the Nazis’ defeat in World War II, wants to take Germany out of NATO and agitates to send immigrants “home.”

Yet the Bundesrat, controlled by the opposition, is fighting the wrong fight. The chances are slim that the Constitutional Court will back the ban and rule that the N.P.D. threatens Germany’s democracy. Only two parties — West Germany’s Communist Party and the immediate successor to the Nazi Party — have ever been banned, both more than 50 years ago.

And if the N.P.D. survives, it could emerge stronger than before.

Founded in 1964, the N.P.D. was a fringe party in West Germany. After German reunification in 1990, it experienced a brief revival in the former East Germany among the young, disgruntled and unemployed. Today, it has about 6,000 members and holds seats in just two state assemblies. The N.P.D. represents about 1 percent of the electorate nationwide and has no hope of getting into Parliament.