(Bloomberg) -- German authorities classified the Alternative for Germany in the state of Saxony-Anhalt as right—wing extremist, the second regional branch of the party in the former communist east to be categorized as such.
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The decision, which paves the way for heightened surveillance, is significant because the party, known by its German acronym AfD, currently has the strongest support among Saxony-Anhalt’s voters on 33%, according to a poll published last month.
At the national level, the anti-immigrant group has tapped into discontent over the government’s handling of rising numbers of refugees to climb to second in the polls behind the main opposition conservatives.
The decision to classify the Saxony-Anhalt chapter as right-wing extremist — following a similar move in the neighboring eastern state of Thuringia — was based on numerous statements by AfD officials which represented a challenge to the basic democratic order, according to a statement by the regional domestic intelligence service carried in local media.
It means that legal hurdles are lower for the authorities to deploy measures like tapping telephone calls or using informants. Local AfD officials said they would challenge the move in court.
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Ulrich Siegmund, head of the AfD caucus in Saxony-Anhalt, dismissed it as “politically motivated,” while Ruediger Erben, a lawmaker from Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats, told broadcaster MDR it was not a surprise as “extremist elements” in the party had clearly spread in recent months.
“It has been obvious for a long time,” MDR quoted Sebastian Striegel, a Greens party lawmaker, as saying. The decision is positive as it makes it “clear what legal options are available for monitoring this anti-constitutional party,” he added.
The next election in Saxony-Anhalt is due in the summer of 2026, following regional votes in Thuringia, Saxony and Brandenburg in the fall of next year.
(Updates with lawmaker comments starting in fifth paragraph)
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