German intelligence services have reportedly identified far-right political party AfD (Alternative für Deutschland) as a suspected extremist threat. While the party has been under surveillance in specific states of the country, local media reports state that its activities may now be observed on a national scale.
The Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV), or Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution in English, will now be able to tap the phones of AfD members, and monitor funding. However, members of Parliament and Members of the European Parliament will be exempt from such surveillance. The decision to implement full-party surveillance is a result of a “lengthy report” written by the BfV’s extremism experts and lawyers, who have collated statements from AfD officials over the course of several years. The 1000-page report concluded that the AfD “have violated conditions of human dignity and democracy under German law.”
While the BfV is legally prevented from confirming the claims, if the claims are true, the AfD would be the first major political party to have received such a designation since World War Two. An AfD spokesperson described the move as “purely political”, adding that the party would seek legal action against the “unjustified classification”. The AfD fears that the move may lead to diminished support in the autumn federal elections, and analysts have confirmed that more conservative voters, who previously drifted away from traditional parties, may now be deterred from the party. AfD co-leader Alexander Gauland expressed his discontent: “The agenda is clear. First we are made a ‘case to investigate,’ now we are a ‘suspected case’ and are under surveillance — and at some point there will be a request to ban our party.”
The AfD is renowned for its anti-immigration and anti-Islam policies; members have previously been accused of white supremacy, racism, and neo-Nazism. Björn Höcke, ex-leader of AfD in Thuringia state, was expelled from the party in 2017, having argued that Germany should not be so apologetic for the Holocaust. Three years later, Andreas Kalbitz was stripped of his role as head of the AfD in Brandenburg, after failing to declare that he had previously been a member of a neo-Nazi group.
Despite only entering the Bundestag four years ago, the AfD is the country’s biggest opposition party. It has 89 parliamentary seats, and is represented in all 16 regional assemblies.