BERLIN — Germany’s top security official violated the rights of a far-right party by posting remarks criticizing it on his ministry’s website, the country’s highest court ruled Tuesday. The Alternative for Germany party, whose anti-migration and anti-establishment stance helped it get into the German Parliament in 2017, is the largest of several opposition parties.
Its case against Interior Minister Horst Seehofer stems from an interview that his ministry posted on its website in 2018, in which he decried a broadside by the Alternative for Germany party against President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. The party had accused Steinmeier of drumming up support for a “radical left-wing event” after he backed a left-wing punk group’s anti-racism concert, and the party sought to debate his budget in parliament.
Seehofer described the party’s behavior as “undermining the state” and asserted that “they stand against this state. They can say 1,000 times that they are democrats. … This is highly dangerous for our state.”
The Federal Constitutional Court found that parties must be allowed to compete on an equal footing. Presiding Judge Andreas Vosskuhle said the legitimacy of the government’s public relations work “ends where advertising for or exerting influence against individual parties or people in political competition begins.”
The court found that the government is entitled to defend itself publicly against criticism of its policies using official channels but should avoid comments that have no substantial link to the criticism and are “distorting or disparaging.”
The verdict has no direct consequences for Seehofer. The interview was taken down from the ministry website a little over two weeks after it was posted.