Germany’s domestic intelligence agency will step up its surveillance of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) on suspicion it espouses “extremist” positions that threaten democracy, Der Spiegel Magazine reported.
A spokeswoman for the BfV intelligence agency declined to comment on the unsourced report published Wednesday. If confirmed, this would be a setback for the party before an election in September in which polls forecast a loss in support over its opposition to lockdown measures during the coronavirus pandemic. A decision by the intelligence agency to monitor the party nationally would entail the surveillance of all its leaders and lawmakers in the Bundestag lower house.
“We have not been informed of any decision to increase surveillance activities against us,” AfD lawmaker Stefan Keuter said. “But should this be the case, we will fight it in the courts.” The AfD entered Parliament four years ago, drawing voters angry with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 2015 decision to welcome more than one million refugees and migrants; it also has lawmakers in all of Germany’s 16 regional assemblies. It has been ostracised by other parties, which say its rhetoric contributes to an atmosphere of hate that encourages political violence. AfD co-leader Joerg Meuthen wants to purge the party of members suspected of harbouring sympathies to hardline far-right groups and make it more palatable to a broader section of the German public. The Central Council of Jews in Germany welcomed the news. “The AfD’s destructive politics undermine our democratic institutions and discredit democracy among citizens,” it said in a statement. “The domestic intelligence agency took the right and necessary step.”
Domestic spies started a review of the AfD’s political programme and speeches in 2019 with the goal of establishing whether more surveillance activities like tapping the party’s communications and scrutinising its funding were needed. The AfD sued the government over its declaration and a court two years ago blocked the BfV from publicly designating the party a “case to investigate” as this puts it at a disadvantage in elections. However, it rejected the AfD’s petition to prevent the BfV from conducting an intelligence review of the biggest opposition party in the national parliament. The case is still being fought in courts. The BfV told the Administrative Court in the western city of Cologne last month it would not monitor AfD lawmakers in the national, regional and European parliaments as long as the case was being heard.