German Authorities Put AfD Under Scrutiny

© AP Photo / Jens MeyerBjoern Hoecke, chairman of the Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD) in the German state of Thuringia, leaves after a press statement in Erfurt, central Germany, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017
Bjoern Hoecke, chairman of the Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD) in the German state of Thuringia, leaves after a press statement in Erfurt, central Germany, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017 - Sputnik International
BRUSSELS (Sputnik) - The Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, the third-largest political force in the Bundestag, has been put under extended scrutiny by the country’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), while its more hardline associations have been placed under surveillance.

On Tuesday, BfV officially acknowledged the ongoing investigation, noting that it was entitled to react if some political party demonstrated an "anti-constitutional orientation."

"BfV has strictly kept to its statutory tasks in its assessment. As the 'early warning system' of democracy, BfV and the LfVs are obliged to take action if there is actual evidence indicating a party's anti-constitutional orientation or that of parts of the party," BfV President Thomas Haldenwang said.

READ MORE: Germany's Domestic Security Office Intends to Look Into AfD Party — Reports

'Test Case' for the Party

BfV has designated the AfD party as a "test case" ("Prüffall" in German), which is the lowest level in a three-tier system of investigations that the office conducts. Such an investigation implies that the party will have its public statements reviewed, but no information will be collected through hidden informants or electronic surveillance.

The agency, however, has gone further with the party’s youth organisation, Young Alternative for Germany (JA), and "the Wing" (Der Flügel) hardline faction, classifying them as "suspected cases," which means that they can be put under surveillance.

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The reasoning is that these groups use a clearly "anti-migration and particularly anti-Muslim" rhetoric, according to BfV. It suffices to suggest that these very statements might serve as a reason for classifying the party itself as a "suspected case" or "dangerous for democracy."

"There is clear evidence of an anti-migration and particularly anti-Muslim attitude taken by the JA (Junge Alternative). Thus, in the so-called ‘Deutschlandplan’ ('Plan for Germany'), the JA's central political agenda, and in various statements made by JA officials, there are positions to be found that clearly violate the guarantee of human dignity," BfV spokesperson stated.

The youth organization is, among other things, under scrutiny for its relations with France’s Generation Identity movement, which describes its main goal as a fight against massive immigration and Islamisation of Europe. The movement made the buzz in France when it blocked mountain roads between Italy and France in the Alps, through which undocumented migrants are entering France, and sought to hamper migrant rescue operations by non-governmental organizations in the Mediterranean.

The group is close to France’s right-wing National Rally (RN) party of Marine Le Pen, who came in second in the 2017 French presidential election.

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AfD to Take Legal Action

The AfD party dismissed allegations against it as politically motivated and pledged to challenge them at court.

"Thank God, we are still living in a constitutional state and will take legal action against this type of suspicion test! Mr. Haldenwang's reasoning is not sustainable … We think the decision of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution is wrong. We will take legal action against it. We consider the arguments to be unsustainable, throughout. We believe that political pressure has led to this," AfD co-chair Alexander Gauland said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Alice Weidel, the head of the AfD Bundestag faction, similarly described the "test case" against the party as trumped-up, claiming that it was the dismissal of former BfV President Hans-Georg Maassen that opened the way for such probes.

"We now know why Hans-Georg Maassen, as president of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, had to take his hat off and was chased away. He had to clear the way so that the AfD can now be declared a ‘test case.’ With Mr Maassen, this decision would not have been possible… What does a 'Prüffall' mean? A 'Prüffall' ultimately means nothing," she said at the same press conference.

Meanwhile, Roland Hartwig, the head of the AfD working group for the protection of the constitution, recalled that the checks of the party’s activities had been underway for months, but failed to provide anything to support claims against the party.

"It is surprising that months after the beginning of the ‘examination,’ it is announced that they will give it further consideration! This is actually no information, because the BfV has been investigating for months. It shows that the information gathered against us is in no way sufficient to continue to watch against us," Hartwig said.

'Nothing Will Come Out of Probe,' Party ‘Fully Respectful’ of Constitution

Joerg Meuthen, the party co-president and a European Parliament member, decried the allegations against the party as "bizarre," stressing that the party was fully respectful of the constitution and "the liberal democratic basic order" that it rests on.

"This ["test case"] is as bizarre as the alleged arguments put forward to justify it, because none of them has any strength or validity. We are a party at the federal level with 91 members of parliament in Berlin and we are fully respectful of the FDGO, the liberal democratic basic order (in German: Freiheitliche Demokratische Grundordnung — FDGO) which is fundamental for our German constitutional law. So let them check whatever they want, in the end, nothing will come of it," Meuthen told Sputnik.

The party leader added that "we are very sure of ourselves on this."

"The domestic intelligence service confirms that it has examined our party for months, which should be sufficient to come to conclusions, but the conclusion of the new president of the Federal Office is that the AfD is now being declared a ‘test case’?!" he stressed.

The statement came after the party’s youth organization, which has become subject to tougher scrutiny, reaffirmed its consistent commitment to the basic constitutional order.

"The Young Alternative has time and again clearly demonstrated that it consistently opposes people who do not move within the framework of the liberal democratic basic order. The inquiry against us is purely arbitrary," JA chairman Damian Lohr said at the press conference on Tuesday.

‘Irritating Competitor’

The Free Democratic Party (FDP) was one of few key German parties that have swiftly commented on the AfD party’s designation as a "test case."

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FDP leader Christian Lindner expressed the party’s general support for the monitoring of AfD, but warned that "there cannot be the impression that the political parties want to get rid of an irritating competitor, through an investigation by the security authorities."

Such an impression was indeed something that many Germans might have had in mind. The extended probe against the AfD party comes as the latter was gaining points in the polls, with all traditional key parties being in decline.

READ MORE: AfD Party Member: There Are More Important Tasks in Politics Than Third Gender

The process has been actually underway since the onset of the migration crisis, to which Chancellor Angela Merkel's government responded with an open-door policy.

Since that, migrant issues have been very high on agenda in Germany, with the popularity of the hard-right AfD party skyrocketing, to the point today of seeing it come second in many polls and challenging the government’s policies.

In August 2018, when a German citizen was fatally stabbed, allegedly by two migrants from Iraq and Syria, in Chemnitz, the eastern German city plunged into far-right rallies and rival protest rallies.

Merkel’s spokesman accused the opposition of organizing "the hunt for migrants" in Chemnitz, and the government requested a BfV investigation then under the leadership of former head Maassen.

Maassen, however, doubted that there was any such hunt in place and made reservations about the authenticity of videos showing far-right violence amid the anti-migration protests in Chemnitz. As a result, he was dismissed after calls for his resignation from opposition politicians, who have suggested he was supportive of right-wing views.

Following in the Footsteps of Mueller Probe?

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According to Mischael Modrikamen, a co-chairman of "The Movement" European populist group and the president of the People's Party (PP) of Belgium, the probes into the AfD party have very much in common with US investigations into purported collusion of President Donald Trump with Russia, being actually an attempt to "stifle" the voice of political opponents.

"This investigation is in a way comparable to that of the "Special Investigation Counsel Robert Mueller in the USA. Mueller and the FBI are investigating, upon request of the Democrats who want to ‘kill’ Donald Trump, the allegations about Trump being a ‘Moscow agent’. Ridiculous and undemocratic. This German investigation is politically motivated and ordered by Chancellor Merkel. It is a disgrace for democracy. Nothing will come of it, except more vigorous support for the realism of the AfD," Modrikamen told Sputnik.

BfV is in charge of protecting the German Constitution against any attempt to threaten democracy, from left or from the right. Extremism is forbidden by the country’s post-World War II constitution, which was tailored to protect the country from Nazism’s resurgence.

The AfD party, in turn, is often portrayed by the press and its opponents as the first "far-right" politician force to secure seats in the Bundestag since the Nazis, with such parallels and purported links, of course, being detrimental to AfD’s positioning.

The views and opinions expressed by the speakers do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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