Katja Hoyer Katja Hoyer

Germany shouldn’t ban the AfD

However tempting to try, you cannot outlaw opinions

(Getty Images)

There are few countries in the world more conscious of the fragility of democracy than Germany. After the horrors of Nazism, the country vowed never again and, in August 1948, a constitution was drafted for West Germany that was designed to build a stable democracy and defend it. 75 years later, the same legal framework continues to uphold the same values, but the challenges mounted by increasing fanaticism are keenly felt. The temptation to use the constitution’s own heavy-handed tools to defend democracy is great, but politicians must resist it.

Many AfD voters have turned to the party because they have lost trust in the established political parties and public institutions

When the German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier led the celebrations for the 75th anniversary of his country’s political inception last week, he warned the German people that ‘in the fight against extremism, there is a historical lesson that runs like a thread through the draft constitution… and that is still relevant today: a democracy has to be able to defend itself against its enemies. Never again must democratic rights be misused to abolish freedom and democracy.’

Alluding to the way the Nazi party was able to use its electoral support to destroy Germany’s interwar democracy, Steinmeier expressed his deep concern about the rise of the far-right party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), which is currently polling as the second largest political force. As President, Steinmeier is bound to stand above party politics, so the AfD was not directly mentioned in his speech, but there was no doubt who he was talking about when he said, ‘the constitution cannot encompass those who are enemies of the constitution.’

To many observers, this sounded like a call to ban the AfD. The constitution allows this if a party or its members seek to undermine or destroy the existing framework of German democracy.

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