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Discussion about banning the AfD continues

Against the backdrop of high AfD poll ratings, the possibility of banning the party is being discussed. However, some warn that such a step could also benefit the party.

Parties - Discussion about banning the AfD continues

Petra Köpping, Saxony's Minister of Social Affairs and the SPD's lead candidate for the state elections, is in favor of examining the possibility of banning the AfD. "We should regularly examine the chances of banning the AfD," Köpping told Der Spiegel, thereby aligning herself with SPD federal chairwoman Saskia Esken.

The NPD ban procedure had failed because the party had only achieved low election results and therefore posed no threat. "I see things differently with the AfD," argued Köpping. "The AfD is strong, it is a threat to democracy."

Esken had spoken out in favor of a regular review of an AfD ban. Her party colleague Carsten Schneider, Federal Government Commissioner for Eastern Europe, warned against this. Such a procedure would have little chance and would increase solidarity with the AfD.

"Failure would be fatal"

Köpping also qualified that a ban procedure should not be pursued without any ifs and buts, "because failure would be fatal for the social climate". The strength of the AfD in Saxony is nothing new, said Köpping. "There were massive campaigns during the coronavirus pandemic: against vaccination, against protective measures. This fierce populism is eating away at democracy." The democratic parties must stand up to it, "including the CDU/CSU", Köpping warned.

Former Bundestag President Wolfgang Thierse also spoke out in favor of examining a ban procedure. "If the Office for the Protection of the Constitution in three federal states classifies the AfD as definitely right-wing extremist, then the state has a duty to consider banning the AfD," the SPD politician told the Tagesspiegel newspaper. However, "one must consider very soberly: there are high hurdles for a party ban in Germany, a ban procedure takes a long time, probably many years, and the AfD would exploit this considerably for propaganda purposes, stylizing itself as a victim".

Merz criticizes Esken

CDU leader Merz also told the Münchner Merkur newspaper: "Such sham debates are grist to the AfD's mill." He criticized Esken in particular: "Does the SPD chairwoman seriously believe that you can simply ban a party that reaches 30 percent in the polls? That is a frightening suppression of reality." Only sensible political solutions to problems would be effective, then the AfD would become smaller again.

Green politician: Significant constitutional hurdles

Green politician Konstantin von Notz sees high hurdles to banning the AfD. Above all, a political debate is needed to "remove the breeding ground" for the AfD, the deputy chairman of the Green parliamentary group told the German Press Agency in Berlin.

"The AfD is a party that deeply despises our democracy," said von Notz. "It sows hatred and causes great damage to our country and our democracy." The security authorities have already classified various AfD branches and state associations as right-wing extremist.

A party ban is a possible instrument in Germany. "However, there are considerable constitutional hurdles to such a ban," added the Green politician. "And anti-democratic ideas cannot simply be banned." Democrats would therefore have to confront the AfD. At the same time, the constitutional bodies must keep an eye on the assessments of the security authorities and "carefully weigh up the arguments for and against a ban".

Left Party leader: don't give up the option of banning the AfD prematurely

Martin Schirdewan, Chairman of the Left Party, is also open to the idea of banning the AfD. "The option of banning the party must not be hastily dismissed," he told the German Press Agency. "And unlike the NPD, the AfD could unfortunately no longer avoid a ban by becoming insignificant."

An NPD ban was rejected by the Federal Constitutional Court in 2017 because the party had too little weight to enforce its unconstitutional goals. Schirdewan said: "I have no doubt that the AfD poses a threat to democracy." It is demagogically inciting people against each other and deliberately disrupting social cohesion.

"A democracy must defend itself against this with persuasion and good policies in the interests of the majority that create trust," emphasized the Left Party leader. "You just shouldn't think that your own homework is done when you ban a fascist party. The focus should first be on your own political work."

With more than 20 percent, the AfD is well ahead of the governing parties SPD, Greens and FDP in second place behind the CDU/CSU in all polls for the Bundestag elections. In Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg, where new state parliaments will be elected in September, polls show the AfD in the lead, in some cases by a considerable margin. In Saxony, Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt, the party is classified as "definitely right-wing extremist" by the state offices for the protection of the constitution.

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