In its unanimous judgment on January 17, the court stated that the NPD advocates abolishing the existing free democratic basic order and wants to eliminate existing democratic freedoms in favor of an authoritarian state.
Despite these unconstitutional aims, the Federal Constitutional Court decided to reject the ban on the party because of a lack of specific and weighty indications suggesting that their endeavor could potentially be successful.
Well known, but not well liked
The NPD is a well-known neo-Nazi party in Germany due to frequent media coverage of its rallies and protest, but it has little popularity. The party is not represented in the German Parliament and only holds one seat in the European Parliament.
The German Constitutional Court’s decision fully respects fundamental rights, and even ensures a higher level of protection than the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
The ECHR emphasized that while states could take action to restrict the activities of political parties, such measures should be taken only in truly exceptional circumstances. Measures could be taken, in particular, where a political party proposed fundamentally undemocratic action.
Cases from Turkey and Hungary
The ECHR stated in the case of Refah Partisi (Welfare Party) v. Turkey that banning a political party as preventive intervention may be justified, as the state cannot be required to wait until a political party has seized power and begun to take concrete steps to implement a policy incompatible with the standards of democracy and the European Convention on Human Rights. The ban of the Turkish Refah Partisi was upheld and the ECHR found no violation of freedom of association.
In Vona v. Hungary, the ECHR decided that banning a far right movement (Magyar Gárda) in Hungary caused no violation of the freedom of association. In the ECHR’s view, upholding the legal existence of a far-right movement in the privileged form of an entity under the law on associations could be seen by the general public as legitimizing the movement. This would have enabled the association, benefiting from the prerogatives of a legally registered entity, to continue to support the movement, and the state would thereby have indirectly facilitated the orchestration of its campaigns and rallies.
Courts make similar arguments
The arguments of the German Constitutional Court reflect most of the arguments of the European Court of Human Rights, not only with regard to freedom of association decisions, but also freedom of speech decisions as well.
The German court underlined that there are no indications to suggest that the National Democratic Party creates an atmosphere that undermines the free process of the development of political opinions.