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German court delays far-right party ruling, citing election

July 8, 2021 GMT

BERLIN (AP) — A court in Germany said Thursday that it won’t decide before the country’s national election in September whether the domestic intelligence agency can put the far-right Alternative for Germany party under observation due to suspicions of extreme-right sympathies.

The Cologne administrative court said it also won’t rule before the Sept. 26 election on the party’s bid to prevent the intelligence agency from publicly specifying how many people belong to its officially dissolved hard-right faction, known as The Wing.

The court said it originally planned to rule in early July, a sufficient distance from the election, but the complexity of the case and other factors got in the way. Therefore, out of “respect for voters’ decision,” it now plans to rule in the first quarter of 2022.

Alternative for Germany, or AfD, entered Germany’s national parliament with 12.6% of the vote in 2017 and is currently the biggest of several opposition parties.

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It has moved steadily to the right over the years while retaining a solid core of support; recent polls rate it at 10-12%. The party benefited from anger over Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to allow large numbers of refugees and asylum-seekers into Germany in 2015. More recently, AfD has portrayed itself as a champion of resistance to coronavirus restrictions.

In March, judges ruled that AfD could not be classified or treated as a “suspected case” of extremism until a decision was made on an emergency brief submitted by the party, after it alleged the intelligence agency broke a court order not to make such a classification public. Thursday’s announcement keeps that ruling in place.

AfD co-leader Joerg Meuthen welcomed the court’s new timetable, arguing that an “unjustified observation” by the intelligence agency would become public and “massively damage AfD, particularly in the election campaign.”