Germany’s highest court is expected to make a ruling by the end of the week on whether or not the National Democratic Party (NPD) should be allowed to exist.
The case was brought to the Federal Constitutional Court in the city of Karlsruhe by the upper house of parliament. The parliament argues NPD is a threat to Germany’s democratic order for its neo-Nazi views.
Freedom of speech laws are more restricted in Germany than in the U.S. — public displays of Nazi and Communist symbols, as well as Holocaust denial, are outlawed. The case is still sensitive and the court’s chief justice, Andreas Vosskuhle, urges caution in the process.
“It’s a sharp double-edge sword that must be used with great caution,” Vosskuhle said Tuesday. “It limits freedom in order to preserve freedom.”
Bans of this kind are rare, require support from at least six of eight judges and haven’t happened since the 1950s when the Communist Party and the Socialist Reich Party were banned.
A previous attempt to ban NPD in 2003 failed after the judges concluded the evidence from infiltrated agents wasn’t sufficient. The party has never been represented in the national parliament, only holding a handful of seats in local constituencies, and received 1.3 percent of the votes in the 2013 federal election.
While NPD’s poll numbers are rather insignificant, support for nationalistic movements and less immigration have surged in the last year.
Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West (Pegida) is a movement that started in 2014 and has since attracted tens of thousands of supporters to rallies in major cities. Pegida leader Lutz Bachmann revealed plans Monday to merge with the Alternative for Germany party (AfD). AfD has seen its numbers rise to more than 10 percent in recent months and is looking to become the big winner in next year’s election.
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