‘Authoritarian thinking’ – Journalist from liberal taz makes surprise warning against German parliament stripping AfD politician Björn Höcke of his basic voting rights

(AP Photo/Jens Meyer)
By Dénes Albert
5 Min Read

The Bundestag will soon decide whether Thuringian AfD leader Björn Höcke should be stripped of his basic civil rights, which would end his right to vote and run for office. However, just as with the much-discussed potential ban on the entire AfD party, the questions surrounding Höcke have sparked substantial conflicts within German society. Now, some on the left are raising the alarm about such a move.

One of the most unlikely papers to defend Höcke is the left-wing taz newspaper, which is based out of Berlin. The paper’s legal correspondent, Christian Rath, has written a piece highlighting the dangers of such a move against the AfD politician. Rath’s editorial piece is not designed to defend Höcke’s views, but instead his right to have them. The journalist also highlights that the left may be on the path of becoming the very authoritarians that they rail against.

“Anyone who believes that basic rights are disposable and can be taken away has already fallen into authoritarian thinking and is therefore part of the problem, not the solution. Anyone who wants to deprive Höcke of his right to vote is ridiculing democracy and endangering what we all want to defend,” he writes.

Rath references an ongoing petition, already signed by over a million people, launched by the left-wing organization “Campact” to remove Höcke’s fundamental rights. He writes that “this is not a reason for anti-fascist joy, but rather a reason for the highest democratic concern. Basic political rights are of little value if they are taken away from those who need them most because of their opposition to the current political majority.”

In fact, Rath even refers to Hungary and asks those on the left to ponder a scenario in which Hungary was banning its political opposition and stripping opposition politicians of their fundamental rights.

“Let’s imagine that Hungary’s constitution created the possibility of depriving enemies of the state of basic rights. Of course, we would all be outraged. Such a maneuver would be seen as definitive proof that Hungary is no longer a constitutional democracy, but an authoritarian regime somewhere between Belarus and Myanmar. Rightly so,” he states.

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“The granting of binding fundamental rights against which all laws must be measured is a basic condition of modern constitutional states. Nobody should face the state without rights. It is the most important right to have rights, according to Hannah Arendt,” he continues.

However, the German system has a number of unique laws that allow opponents of the democratic mainstream order to be squashed. However, Rath goes so far as to assert that such a law should be abolished entirely.

“Since 1949, however, the Basic Law has stipulated that people who ‘abuse’ certain basic rights such as freedom of expression to fight against the free, democratic basic order ‘forfeit’ their basic rights. This Article 18 is a relic of authoritarian thinking that urgently needs to be abolished before it is applied for the first time,” Rath writes.

Article 18 of the Basic Law states: “Anyone who abuses the freedom of expression, in particular the freedom of the press, the freedom of teaching, the freedom of assembly, the freedom of association, the secrecy of correspondence, post and telecommunications, property or the right of asylum to fight against the free democratic basic order, forfeits these fundamental rights. The forfeiture and its extent are pronounced by the Federal Constitutional Court.”

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Currently, Höcke leads the AfD in the state of Thuringia, where the party remains in first place at 36 percent, according to a Forsa poll. In that state, the AfD has a lead of a whopping 16 points over the CDU. The state will elect a new parliament on Sept. 1, and left-wing activists and politicians are going into panic mode over the east choosing their government through the democratic process, as they are expected to suffer a tremendous blow at the polls.

Meanwhile, calls are growing from the left, and even some in the CDU, for the banning of the AfD entirely, just as the party hits 25 percent in nationwide polls.

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