Karlsruhe (AP) – In February 2020, Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) called the election of a prime minister with AfD votes in Thuringia “unforgivable” – now the federal constitutional court is deciding whether she has crossed a red line.
Chancellor Helge Braun (CDU) justified Wednesday’s hearing in Karlsruhe that Merkel had spoken at a state reception in South Africa. The traveling journalists and especially the coalition partners wanted a positioning. It was also about the international reputation of the Federal Republic of Germany.
The complaining AfD, on the other hand, regarded the statements as a direct attack. “We believe that such an attack, especially during an official state visit under the Chancellor’s logo, is unconstitutional and that Ms Merkel has violated her duty of neutrality,” Vice-President Stephan Brandner said before negotiations began. Party leader Jörg Meuthen said: “She tried to delegitimize a state election in the exercise of her position as Chancellor.”
In Karlsruhe, the party wants to establish that its right to equal opportunities in political competition has been violated. Experience shows that the verdict will be handed down in a few months.
Bodo Ramelow (left) actually wanted to be re-elected on February 5, 2020 as head of government in the state parliament in Erfurt. He did not get enough votes in the first two votes. In the third ballot, FDP politician Thomas Kemmerich, quite surprisingly, defeated him by one vote – co-elected by the CDU and AfD. It was the first time the AfD helped a prime minister to office. Three days later, Kemmerich resigned under pressure and continued to conduct official business without a government until March.
Merkel, who was currently traveling, had spoken the day after the election and had prefaced her press conference with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa with an “introductory remark” “for domestic political reasons”. The result had to be “reversed”, she said, at least the CDU should not participate in this government. And: “It was a bad day for democracy.” A transcript of the press conference was now available at bundeskanzlerin.de and bundesregierung.de.
Braun said press conferences are basically literally and fully documented and nothing will be removed. Journalists would rely on that.
The AfD has already successfully sued Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) in Karlsruhe for having an interview with AfD-critical passages on his ministry page. And Johanna Wanka (CDU) was reprimanded during her time as education minister for calling for the “red card” for the AfD in a ministry statement. According to these statements, politicians are allowed to criticize the AfD publicly. However, they must adhere to the principle of state neutrality when expressing themselves in their role as members of the government.
This time again, the constitutional judges asked a number of critical questions: Isn’t it good practice that domestic politics in general are not discussed abroad? Why didn’t Merkel make it clearer that she was expressing herself as a party politician? And couldn’t she have done that after the press conference? Her words were placed very prominently.
Deputy government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer defended the approach: when traveling abroad, the guest has little room for program changes. A “preliminary remark” is customary in such a case to give more weight to the actual subject.
The judges of the Second Senate had rejected an AfD rejection request filed nearly two weeks ago at the start of the hearing on Wednesday. The AfD had justified this with a visit by a delegation from the court to the Federal Chancellery with a joint dinner on June 30.
Vice President Doris König said that if these regular meetings question impartiality, an exchange of the highest constitutional bodies would be impossible. “In addition, it would express a distrust of the members of the Federal Constitutional Court, which contradicts the constitutional and simply presumed law image of the constitutional judge,” the court said in parallel.