Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has blocked an opposition bid to get parliament to ask the Constitutional Court to ban a neo-Nazi party. A similar lawsuit was launched by Germany's regional states in December.
Germany's opposition center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) was outvoted by parliamentarians of Merkel's governing coalition, 326 to 211, thus defeating a motion that the Bundestag apply to the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe to ban the far-right National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD).
The SPD motion was also backed by the communist leaning Left Party. The Greens cautioned an application to Karlsruhe contained legal risks. In the end, 40 parliamentarians abstained.
During debate, the SPD parliamentary group manager Thomas Oppermann (pictured above) told parliament that it was undeniable that the NDP had "prepared the ground" for aggressive acts of violence in Germany.
This follows disclosures last year that a neo-Nazi cell with the acronym NSU was behind the murders of 10 residents in Germany, mostly of Turkish origin, between 2000 and 2007. The last victim was a German female police officer.
On Thursday in the Bundestag, government parliamentarians also argued that if a Bundestag lawsuit failed on evidential grounds in Karlsruhe it could embolden the NPD and the far-right scene. A similar attempt to ban the NPD failed before the court in 2003. Germany's constitution sets high hurdles for bans on political parties.
Show of solidarity sought
Guest speaker, Boris Pistorius, who is SPD interior minister of the northern German state of Lower Saxony, called on the Bundestag for a show of "democratic solidarity" with Germany's upper parliamentary chamber, the Bundesrat. Evidence of the NPD's unconstitutional behavior was ample, he said.
Last December, the upper house, which represents Germany's 16 regional and city states, voted unanimously to file an application in Karlsruhe for an NPD ban.
The interior affairs spokesman of Merkel's conservative parliamentary group, Hans-Peter Uhl said while the NPD was "repulsive" it was of little electoral relevance. During the 2009 Bundestag election, the NPD had only gleaned 1.5 percent of the second votes for party lists on ballot papers, he said.
Uhl had told the public broadcaster SWR earlier on Thursday that the NPD posed "no danger" to democracy in Germany because it drew "nil votes."
Any bid to ban the NPD overlooked the need for society in general to ensure that anti-Semitism and anti-foreigner sentiment were given no chances, Uhl added.
The NPD was founded in 1964 with the help of former Nazis. It has never won seats in Germany's post-war federal parliament, but it is represented in small numbers in two regional state parliaments.
Germany's security services have said that the NPD promotes a racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic agenda that is unconstitutional.
ipj/hc (AP, AFP, dpa)