The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV, in the German acronym) has placed the country’s largest opposition party, the radical right Alternative for Germany (AfD), under surveillance. The decision was taken after two years of investigation into the party’s xenophobic activity, according to European media.
Lawyers and extremism experts analyzed the speeches of AfD politicians and internet publications and concluded that they were suspected of extremism and could pose a risk to German democracy.
Party leaders reacted to the announcement saying there was electoral motivation and said they were going to court. Created in 2013, the acronym has an open rhetoric against immigrants, mostly Muslims, and developed after the 2015 refugee crisis, when around 2 million immigrants entered Germany.
In the last German parliamentary elections in 2017, the AfD came in third place, with 12.6% of the vote and 94 (13.3%) of the 709 deputies. Since then it has lost popularity and has been criticized for its xenophobic rhetoric after an attack in Hanau early last year and for participating in protests that brought its members together resulted in violence – in the one of them, demonstrators tried to invade Parliament.
Recent polls give the AfD 8% to 11% of the voting intentions for the elections in the second half of the year.
German authorities had already disbanded the extremist wing of the AfD, Flügel (wing), last year, but the security agency says its members still maintain a worrying influence within the guild. In September, the party also sacked its former spokesperson Christian Lüth for statements in which he suggested sending immigrants to the gas chamber (the speech was filmed without his knowledge).
The registers of 4 of the 16 States were already under investigation; henceforth the BfV will be able to follow the activities of the entire acronym. The new decision provides for eavesdropping on communication between party activists, with the exception of elected parliamentarians and candidates for this year’s election.
The AfD is the first party represented in the German Parliament (Bundestag) to be overseen by the BfV, a department created after World War II to prevent the expansion of extremist groups. From 2007 to 2014, the agency also investigated The Left, due to its roots in the Communist Party of former East Germany.
The German agency did not speak about the ongoing investigation. “Due to the ongoing legal proceedings and out of respect for the court, the BfV is not making any public statement on this matter,” a statement said.
Last year, presenting a report on extremism in the country, the agency’s chairman, Thomas Haldenwang, said right-wing extremism and far-right terrorism posed the greatest danger to democracy. German. Experts such as Würzburg University professor Hans Joachim Lauth also see right-wing extremism as the main threat to Germany’s internal security today.
Recent reports have also shown an increase in allegations of extremism among armed troops. There were 477 episodes investigated in 2020, a 30% increase over the previous year, according to data from the Military Counterintelligence Service. The cases linked to neo-Nazism fell from 16 to 31.