Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe: Former Chancellor Merkel has violated AfD rights

Criticism of the elections in Kemmerich
Constitutional judges reprimand Merkel

The Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe is clear: Chancellor Merkel has violated AfD rights with her statements on the election of a prime minister in Thuringia in 2020. Merkel’s spokeswoman spoke shortly after the verdict. The AfD celebrates this decision “as a good day for democracy”.

The Federal Constitutional Court upheld the AfD after a lawsuit against former Chancellor Angela Merkel. Merkel violated the AfD’s right to equal opportunities by criticizing the prime minister’s election in Thuringia in February 2020 during her trip abroad, the court in Karlsruhe said. In South Africa, a CDU politician sharply criticized the election of FDP politician Thomas Kemmerich with the votes of the CDU and the AfD and demanded that the CDU should not be allowed to participate in the Kemmerich government. The AfD concluded that Merkel’s statements violated her right to equal opportunities in political competition.

In fact, on February 5, 2020, in the national parliament in Erfurt, Bodo Ramelow wanted to be re-elected head of government by the left. He did not get enough votes in the first two votes. In the third vote, FDP politician Thomas Kemmerich unexpectedly defeated him with one vote – jointly elected by the CDU and the AfD. For the first time, the AfD helped the prime minister take office.

Merkel, who was traveling at the time, spoke the day after the elections and preceded her press conference with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa with “a preliminary remark for internal political reasons”. The result must be “pulled back,” she said, at least the CDU should not be involved in this government. And: “It was a bad day for democracy.” The press conference transcript was meanwhile available on bundeskanzlerin.de and bundesregierung.de.

Merkel pays respect in court

The vice-president of the court, Doris König, criticized the fact that Merkel made an official statement while reading the judgment. Neither the reference to the “introductory remark” nor the content clearly indicates that Merkel did not want to speak as chancellor, but only as a party politician. As her statement “unilaterally biased” contains qualifications that are negative for the AfD, this is an interference with the parties’ right to equal opportunities.

However, the judgment of the Senate II was extremely narrow, reaching five votes to three. In the event of a stalemate, the AfD’s lawsuit would fail. Constitutional judge Astrid Wallrabenstein also dissented from the majority decision.

Following the ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court, Merkel expressed her respect for the highest German court. “Of course, former Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel respects the decision of the Federal Constitutional Court,” said spokeswoman Merkel. Merkel did not comment on the content. Following the decision, Kemmerich also announced his “great respect for the court”, as stated in a statement. “For me, I am a person who looks to the future.”

AfD head Tino Chrupalla praised the judgment of the Federal Constitutional Court. “This is a good day for democracy,” he said after the announcement in Karlsruhe. Merkel’s statements not only blatantly violated the AfD’s rights, but also the Basic Law.

Successful lawsuits against Seehofer and Wanka already completed

The AfD has already successfully sued former Interior Minister Horst Seehofer of the CSU in Karlsruhe because an interview with fragments critical to the AfD was on his ministry’s website. While serving as Education Minister, CDU politician Johanna Wanka was reprimanded for calling for a “red card” for the AfD in a ministry statement. According to these judgments, politicians may publicly criticize the AfD. However, they must respect the requirement of state neutrality when speaking as members of the government.

In negotiations in Karlsruhe on the elections in Thuringia in July 2021, Chancellor Merkel Helge Braun of the CDU defended the statements, saying that journalists traveling with him, and above all a coalition partner, wanted a position. It was also about the international reputation of the Federal Republic of Germany. As for the website transcripts, he said press conferences were always documented literally and completely. Journalists will rely on this.

The AfD assessed these statements as a direct attack. “We believe that such an attack, especially during an official state visit under the Federal Chancellor’s logo, is unconstitutional and that Ms Merkel has breached her duty of neutrality,” said Vice-President Stephan Brandner. The then coalition leader Jörg Meuthen, who has since left the AfD, said: “She tried to delegitimize the state elections by holding the office of chancellor.”

Kemmerich resigned after three days under pressure, holding office without a government until March. Ramelow became prime minister of Thuringia again.

(This article was first published on Wednesday June 15, 2022)

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