State money for the AfD fund? – A lesson in the relationship between power and law

The foundations of the political parties carry out important tasks. Above all, they are professionally involved in political education. It is also necessary. Democracy is a sophisticated form of government. It requires a minimum level of political knowledge, understanding and ability among citizens. In any case, the ideal of democracy requires citizens to manage their affairs and participate in an informed way, regardless of the form. They must also be able to talk together and find compromises. None of this is taken for granted – and certainly not innate. The classical educational institutions alone cannot ensure this. Against this background, it is legitimate for the democratic state to finance the funds. But in the democratic constitutional state of the constitution, financing through taxpayers’ money must not be an arbitrary and opaque matter.

Political education in the hands of the state?

The Constitution has a specific conception of democracy. It wants an open and pluralistic parliamentary democracy where all citizens are free to express their opinions. Of course, in this concept of democracy there is also room for harsh and fundamental criticism of everything, including and especially of the state. A dominant position, which all citizens – and voters – follow uncritically, is a ban on the constitution. This idea of ​​democracy has implications for the funding of political education. The state must not arbitrarily finance funds that are uncritically close. He must consider the entire political spectrum.

Basically, this is what happens. The state financially supports both the left-wing Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and the right-wing Hanns Seidel Foundation. But there is one exception. The AfD Foundation receives no funds, even though it actually fulfills the unwritten requirements that have been used by consensus for decades. The Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe put it this way in a previous judgment: The funding must adequately take into account all permanent, important political trends in the Federal Republic of Germany. It can be said that the AfD represents a permanent political current that has weight. This party’s electoral results, which they have regularly achieved in recent years, speak for themselves.

You don’t have to like the AfD or share its goals (the author does neither of these things), to put it bluntly: the foundation is excluded from state aid because the majority of the Bundestag does not like its political orientation. This is contrary to the idea of ​​democracy in the constitution. The constitution wants an open, often very argumentative and tough debate about political content that does not fight through the back door of financial regulations. Conclusion in a nutshell: The idea of ​​equality, which is so fundamental to the constitution, will be violated if the AfD Foundation is excluded from funding.

Fair competition between the parties

Although the political foundations are legally independent, they are all close to a political party and work closely with it. In all foundations there are similarities in content, shared values ​​and personal ties to their respective “mother party”. If foundations are treated differently, the political parties are also at a disadvantage. This goes to the core of the constitution’s conception of democracy. The constitution wants a party democracy where there is fair, equal competition between political parties for sovereignty of opinion and ultimately for political power. Anyone who excludes a fund from funding for political reasons violates party equality and harms fair party competition. This is a clear violation of the Constitution.

Funding for enemies of democracy?

But is the AfD a party like any other? The Office for the Protection of the Constitution monitors the party. The party program contains content that is anti-democratic. Numerous statements by prominent top politicians in the AfD – not only by Björn Höcke – show that they reject the democratic order of the constitution. Large parts of the AfD want a state and a social order that certainly do not correspond to the constitution. Many in the AfD no longer hide it. The Desiderius Erasmus Foundation’s political seminars are not always compatible with the constitution. A quick look at the seminar topics and the speakers over the past few years shows that. To put it bluntly: Should the state finance a party and a foundation that will ultimately abolish it?

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The constitutional answer is clear. The enemies of democracy – and the author considers the AfD to be an enemy of democracy – must be fought politically. The democratic rule of law defends itself against its enemies with good politics and fierce political opinion. Budget laws and arbitrary bureaucratic circumvention are not tools permitted under the Constitution.

However, the Constitution contains an exception. The Federal Constitutional Court can ban a political party upon request. Then—and only then—would it be excluded from political competition as an official enemy of the Constitution. However, the constitutional obstacles to a party ban are high. Therefore, there have been only two party bans in the history of the Federal Republic in the 1950s: a Nazi party and the KPD. Even NPD was not banned in 2017.

This ultimately means that as long as the AfD is not banned by the Constitutional Court, it must be treated legally like any other party. This also applies to the financing of her foundation. Against this background, there are many indications that Karlsruhe will agree with the AfD on this matter.

The value of the Constitution

The Constitution applies to everyone. This is what makes them valuable and important. It is intended as a limitation of (political) power through the law. She is concerned with preventing political interference in citizens’ liberties and rationally limiting the exercise of political power. If you ignore them because you have the power, you are damaging the Constitution. From a civilizational point of view, this is a step backwards. The dispute over the funding of the Desiderius Erasmus Foundation is not only about the use of taxpayers’ money. The procedure also poses the explosive question of the relationship between power and justice.

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