German domestic intelligence classified the AfD’s Saxony-Anhalt branch as an extremist group on Tuesday, which an AfD MEP called a cynical ploy to hurt the party’s reputation.
The Alternative for Germany (AfD), founded in 2013, opposes immigration to Germany and is sceptical of the European Union. It has 78 members of the 736-member Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, and currently polls in second place (with 22 per cent) behind the Christian Democratic Union (29.5 per cent).
The domestic intelligence agency, BfV, says it has “assessed” statements from the AfD as “anti-Muslim, antisemitic, and racist” reports Deutsche Welle. This classification permits the intelligence agency to spy on the AfD and its members.
Classifying the group as extremist formed part of a “long-term strategy to delegitimise any valid economic and social criticism of the current state,” says German MEP Gunnar Beck, speaking to Brussels Signal.
“It’s not very surprising,” he adds.
Other AfD branches have received extremist classifications previously, including the neighbouring state of Thuringia’s regional branch.
The AfD’s Saxony-Anhalt branch aspires to “do away with parliamentary democracy in its current form”, says the BfV.
However, “no one in the AfD has that objective”, says Beck.
Extremist classifications are also being assigned on increasingly flimsy pretexts, he argues.
“Originally, parties were classified as extremists if they were indubitable indications that they sought to overthrow the existing order by force,” he says.
The classification comes as both Germany and the AfD face key regional elections in the states of Saxony, Brandenburg, and Thuringia.
All of these are former East German states where the AfD currently leads in polls.
Overall, the party has come second in German nationwide polls.
The AfD actively engages in efforts to undermine the credibility of political and civic institutions, with the ultimate goal of undermining public trust in them, says Jochen Hollmann, head of the BfV.
Once this objective is achieved, the AfD would “take away the rights of entire social groups and subject them to despotism”, he says.
The AfD aims to “undermine our confidence in democracy and its institutions”, agrees Rüdiger Erben, an SPD member of Thuringia’s state parliament.
The state needs to recognise and protect its citizens against this threat, which the official designation allows, says Erben.
Beck, however, argues those allegations are absurd.
“We want to change policy through the democratic method, and any sensible person would regard this as a legitimate objective in a democratic polity,” he says.
They appear delusional about the impact their messaging on migrants could have on German voters, and about AfD’s momentum, which they keep playing down, writes @jrfjeffrey.@lilyslynch | @Raphfel | @moutet | @JuditVarga_EUhttps://t.co/phoX7mg9D3
— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) July 28, 2023