Germany's National Democratic Party is notorious for its far-right slogans and racism, but it still received state party financing - until it fell foul of a clerical error.
Immigrants should go back to the Middle East on flying carpets, and the recent food scandals would not have happened if Germany had not engaged so much with other countries - these are just two of the questionable statements made by the National Democratic Party (NPD) that have left politicians and voters alike shaking their heads.
Despite its far-right positions, the NPD received financial support from the German parliament, the Bundestag, until last week - in 2011 it received a grand total of 1.32 million euros ($1.74 million) of taxpayer's money.
But that is all over now. A payment of 113,000 euros, which the party was still entitled to for last year's campaign costs, was stopped. The Bundestag has also asked the regional parliaments to freeze their payments to the NPD. The reason is apparently an administrative error - the NPD is reported to have provided incomplete records of its finances, and is now refusing to pay the fine imposed by the Federal Administrative Court.
One rule for all
But why should a German far-right party be entitled to state money as long as it keeps its books in order?
Germany's party financing regulations apply irrespective of a party's politics. "At the very start of the history of the Federal Republic, money was distributed according to preference," says Kai Arzheimer, head of the political science institute at the University of Mainz. For that reason, government parties tended to benefit from state money the most. "But in the subsequent development of party financing, we moved away from such arbitrary political payments."
Now the Bundestag decides by way of strictly objective rules which groups get money from the state. In order to qualify for support, a party must field candidates at either federal, state, or European elections. Then the party must win at least 0.5 percent of the vote. If clears that hurdle, the party receives 85 euro cents for every vote - and 70 cents for anything above four million votes.
That gives small parties the opportunity to take their place on the political stage, and that doesn't only go for the NPD. The rise of the Green party was only possible because of party financing, according to Arzheimer. "The system is meant to make political innovation possible, so that parties can prove that they have serious goals and can get elected too," he says.
NPD: 'Torpedoing the election'
So the NPD is subject to the same rules as all the other parties, and the reason for the withholding of funds - at least for now - lies in its faulty accounting. In order to get the subsidy from the Bundestag, each party has to provide regular reports of how much money it has, and what it is spending its state subsidy on. The Federal Administrative Court said that its 2007 report was incorrect and incomplete, and in December 2012 it imposed a fine of 1.27 million euros. As the NPD failed to pay up, all payments have now been stopped.
"We expected this scenario, we weren't taken by surprise," NPD spokesman Frank Franz told DW. He described the complete stopping of all payments as an "extreme measure" carried out by the Bundestag. "We see this hard treatment as a signal that we are to be torpedoed in the federal election. After all, there was some scope for administrative discretion."
Merkel support NPD ban
The cancellation of payments comes two months after the interior ministers of Germany's 16 states agreed to attempt a legal ban on the NPD. It will be the second time that the ministers will present a ban to Germany's Constitutional Court. The first attempt failed in 2003 because German intelligence agents were found to be active in the NPD leadership.
According to the Berlin daily Tagesspiegel, citing Christian Democratic Union sources, Chancellor Angela Merkel is now planning to convince her cabinet to bring its own suit to ban the NPD.
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