Top German court backs far-right party over Merkel comments

June 15, 2022 GMT
FILE - German Chancellor Angela Merkel looks on during the first plenary session of the German parliament Bundestag after the elections, Berlin, Oct. 26, 2021. Germany's highest court has backed the far-right party Alternative for Germany, AFD, complaint against comments by then-Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2020 that the election of a state governor with the party's support was 'nexcusable' and must not be allowed to stand. Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)
FILE - German Chancellor Angela Merkel looks on during the first plenary session of the German parliament Bundestag after the elections, Berlin, Oct. 26, 2021. Germany's highest court has backed the far-right party Alternative for Germany, AFD, complaint against comments by then-Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2020 that the election of a state governor with the party's support was 'nexcusable' and must not be allowed to stand. Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)
FILE - German Chancellor Angela Merkel looks on during the first plenary session of the German parliament Bundestag after the elections, Berlin, Oct. 26, 2021. Germany's highest court has backed the far-right party Alternative for Germany, AFD, complaint against comments by then-Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2020 that the election of a state governor with the party's support was 'nexcusable' and must not be allowed to stand. Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)
FILE - German Chancellor Angela Merkel looks on during the first plenary session of the German parliament Bundestag after the elections, Berlin, Oct. 26, 2021. Germany's highest court has backed the far-right party Alternative for Germany, AFD, complaint against comments by then-Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2020 that the election of a state governor with the party's support was 'nexcusable' and must not be allowed to stand. Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)
FILE - German Chancellor Angela Merkel looks on during the first plenary session of the German parliament Bundestag after the elections, Berlin, Oct. 26, 2021. Germany's highest court has backed the far-right party Alternative for Germany, AFD, complaint against comments by then-Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2020 that the election of a state governor with the party's support was 'nexcusable' and must not be allowed to stand. Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s highest court on Wednesday backed a far-right party’s complaint against former Chancellor Angela Merkel’s comments that the election of a state governor with the party’s support was “inexcusable” and must not be allowed to stand.

The Federal Constitutional Court found that the comments, made by the then-chancellor in 2020, violated Alternative for Germany’s right to equality of opportunities.

Merkel’s comments during an official visit to South Africa and later posted on her and the government’s websites, came a day after the surprise election of Thomas Kemmerich, a member of the pro-business Free Democrats, as governor of the eastern state of Thuringia.

Kemmerich narrowly defeated a left-wing incumbent after Alternative for Germany representatives in the state legislature voted for him instead of AfD’s own candidate.

His election was a major embarrassment for Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union, which also had backed Kemmerich.

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Merkel vented her displeasure during a news conference in South Africa, saying that Kemmerich’s election “broke with a fundamental conviction for the CDU, and for me, too, that no majorities should be won with help from AfD.”

Later the same day, Kemmerich announced that he planned to step down.

The German supreme court found that Merkel had “negatively qualified” AfD in an official capacity and so “influenced the competition of political parties in a one-sided way.” The court further held that the government used resources that only it has in publishing the comments on its websites.

There was some dissent to the decision, which judges made by a 5-3 majority. The ruling doesn’t have direct consequences for Merkel.

AfD previously took similar action. In 2020, the top court ruled that Germany’s then-interior minister violated the party’s rights by posting on his ministry’s website an interview in which he criticized its behavior as “undermining the state.”