Ultimately, however, it would be up to the justices of the constitutional court to decide on whether the party can be banned — another reason, advocates argue, to push for changes to the constitution to protect the court.
Justices of Germany’s federal constitutional court serve 12-year terms and, in order to assure their independence, they cannot be re-elected. Politicians from both center-left and center-right parties have spoken out in favor of now anchoring such rules in the constitution.
Despite that apparent consensus, it’s unclear whether conservative opposition leaders in Germany’s parliament, in an atmosphere of growing partisan rancor, will give the ruling coalition the votes it needs to do so.
“We are very cautious when it comes to further amendments to the constitution,” Friedrich Merz, the leader of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), recently said in parliament.
Still, many in Merz’s party’s support the change, reflecting that a fundamental shift is taking place in Germany society. As the AfD comes closer to assuming real power, mainstream parties are increasingly considering using legal means to contain it.
There are few greater signs of this shift than the ongoing protests against the AfD and right-wing extremism in Germany. Hundreds of thousands of Germans in cities across the country have taken part in the massive demonstrations in recent weeks.
The demonstrations, sparked by a report detailing a clandestine gathering of right-wing extremists —including politicians from the AfD — to discuss a “master plan” to deport foreigners and “unassimilated citizens,” illustrate how grassroots opposition to the party has been galvanized. Polls suggest the report and ensuing uproar have somewhat hurt the party’s popularity, at least for now.
“I think it has now become clear to a lot of people that our liberal democracy is under threat and that it is no longer enough to simply look on,” Karin Prien, a deputy chairperson of the CDU, said of the protest movement on German public radio. “Anti-democrats and fascists are using democratic instruments to abolish democracy and that’s why we have to keep a very, very close eye on what they are doing.”