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Officials Display Relief over Npd’s Voluntary Liquidation of Berlin Branch

Relief was evident in official circles today over the right-wing National Democratic Party’s (NPD) voluntary liquidation of its West Berlin branch, a move that averted a potentially embarrassing situation for Federal authorities and deprived East Germany of a strong propaganda point.

Political observers, however, were carefully watching today’s local elections in Baden-Wurttemburg, Hesse and Saarland for evidence of further erosion of the NPD’s political strength. The extreme nationalist, reputedly neo-Nazi party polled a poor 5.2 percent of the vote in the Lower Saxony local elections last month compared to 9.8 percent which it won in the Baden-Wurttemburg state elections in April. But observers here do not think the results of today’s local elections will necessarily indicate the NPD’s standing in next year’s national elections. The consensus is that the rightists will win 40-50 seats in the Bundestag, West Germany’s lower house.

The NPD’s growing political strength in state elections this past year has been a cause for alarm inside Germany and abroad. This has resulted in calls for a ban on the party on the grounds that it is anti-democratic. Under West German law, political parties “which by reason of their aims or the behavior of their adherents seek to impair or destroy the free democratic basic order and to endanger the existence of the Federal Republic of Germany” are to be deemed unconstitutional. To have the NPD banned, the Government would have to prove that the party’s activities and aims are those proscribed by the law. But the NPD has been careful to stay within the law and Government legal experts are reluctant to argue for a ban before the Constitutional High Court in Karlsruhe for lack of sufficient evidence. Should the court rule in favor of the NPD, that party would gain respectability and, its opponents fear, many new adherents.

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