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Germany steps up surveillance of far-right AfD party branch

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
Germany steps up surveillance of far-right AfD party branch
AfD politicians march in Erfurt, Thuringia in October. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bodo Schackow

Germany's domestic intelligence agency said Tuesday it has classified a state branch of the far-right AfD party as a "confirmed" extremist organisation, allowing it to be placed under "systematic" surveillance.

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The Alternative for Germany (AfD) has seen its popularity jump as concerns grow about surging migration, overtaking Chancellor Olaf Scholz's ruling coalition in opinion polls, and now second only to the main opposition CDU.

The Saxony-Anhalt branch of the intelligence agency said it had decided last month on the new classification for the AfD branch in the state.

It is among several regions that were once part of communist East Germany where the AfD has traditionally garnered substantial support. The party is in the lead in Brandenburg, Saxony and Thuringia states, all of which go to the polls next year.

READ ALSO: ANALYSIS: Are far-right sentiments growing in eastern Germany?

Intelligence services began monitoring the party in January 2021, and "the result is clear," said Jochen Hollmann, agency chief in Saxony-Anhalt.

"The state association not only continues to advocate anti-constitutional positions... but has also become so radicalised since the coronavirus pandemic that systematic monitoring using intelligence service resources is justified."

The agency listed a litany of concerns about the state AfD branch that it said breach the constitution.

Its members had frequently made anti-Muslim, racist and anti-Semitic statements, with leading party members deploying "demonising language" about migrants, they said.

The party constantly attacked Germany's democratic system and its institution, in an effort to "erode people's trust" in them, the agency said.

By classifying the AfD in the state as a "confirmed" extremist group, the intelligence agency's resources can now be used without restriction to gather information on the extremist activists of the AfD in the region.

According to the federal agency for civic education, the classification lowers the barriers for monitoring through means such as phone-tapping or using undercover agents.

It is the latest move by authorities against the AfD. In April, the party's youth wing was classified as a "confirmed" extremist organisation.

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The AfD, created in 2013 as an anti-euro outfit before seizing on anger over mass migration to Germany, has had a string of successes of late.

Last month, the party made gains in two key state elections. It secured its first district administrator position in June, in the eastern state of Thuringia, and its first full-time elected town mayor in July in Saxony-Anhalt.

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