A German regional court ruled Tuesday that the youth faction of the country’s biggest anti-immigrant nationalist party could be considered an “extremist movement” — marking the first such classification of a political party since the Nazis.
The Junge Alternative, an offshoot of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) whose members are as young as 14 years old, has called immigrants “parasites” and “criminals,” the court wrote in its ruling — “thereby disregarding their human dignity.” The ruling allows German officials to track the youth wing’s correspondence and limit their members’ ability to be employed in the public sector. The group is entitled to appeal the verdict.
The court’s decision comes with tens of thousands having taken to the streets in recent weeks to protest the AfD’s rise amid fears of the party’s improving poll ratings ahead of state and European Parliament elections in June.
AfD could be the most extreme party in Europe
The AfD and its youth wing have “radicalized dramatically” over the past five years and now stand out as one of the most extreme anti-immigration parties across Europe, Paul Hockenos, a Berlin-based journalist, argued in Foreign Policy. Hockenos cited a Swedish political scientist to argue that while other, ostensibly similar extremist parties in Europe also oppose immigration, the AfD “actively courts militants, trades in antisemitic tropes, and toys with the proposition of Germany exiting NATO and the European Union.” The AfD has also been found to use “near-identical” language to the “virulently xenophobic, and openly neo-Nazi” National Democratic Party of Germany, according to a study conducted by Der Spiegel.
The AfD attempts to sway public opinion by using attacks on it to its advantage
Post-war Germany has “arguably never faced a greater test” to its democracy than the question over whether to ban the AfD, James Angelos, Politico’s Germany news editor argued: Calls for the party to be banned outright grew louder in the past month following revelations of a secret AfD meeting in which attendees debated evicting migrants as well as German citizens from the country. Yet the party has managed to maintain its position in opinion polls, in some cases ranking second among voters. Experts worry that an attempt to ban AfD would backfire and allow the group to argue that their opponents were “undermining the democratic will of the German people,” Angelos wrote. Mainstream parties have also mulled banding together to cap the AfD’s growth, but critics argue that that would allow the party to “cast itself as the only genuine alternative,” Reuters reported.