Education Minister violated constitution by criticizing AfD, top court rules

Minister of education and research Johanna Wanka violated constitutional law by using an official statement to criticize the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), the Federal Constitutional Court ruled on Tuesday.

Education Minister violated constitution by criticizing AfD, top court rules
Johanna Wanka. Photo: DPA

Germany’s top court based in Karlsruhe ruled that Wanka’s office had not remained neutral when it asked for a “red card” boycott of the AfD party in a 2015 ministry press statement online.

Wanka of the Christian Democrats (CDU) had used an education ministry press statement to demand a “red card” against the AfD at a time when hundreds of thousands of refugees were arriving in the country.

In November 2015, the AfD had called for a demonstration in Berlin called “Red card for Merkel – asylum needs borders”, a protest against Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision to open Germany's borders for refugees. Wanka's statement was a direct response to this demonstration.

The education minister wrote on the education ministry’s website: “The red card should be shown against the AfD and not against the federal chancellor.”

But the Federal Constitutional Court ruled on Tuesday that this was unconstitutional as federal ministers are bound to neutrality and must treat political parties equally.

After Wanka’s statement was posted online, the AfD submitted a petition to the Federal Constitutional Court. The education ministry afterward removed Wanka’s statement from its website.

There was no “right to counterattack” in this way, said Andreas Voßkuhle, president of Germany’s top court.

It is the state’s duty to remain objective, not to encourage citizens to participate or not to participate in demonstrations by political parties, added Voßkuhle.

AfD leader Alexander Gauland was satisfied with the verdict. “Thank God there are still judges in Karlsruhe,” he said.

Wanka was brought into Merkel’s cabinet as education minister in 2013. From 2010 until 2013 she was regional minister for science and culture in Hanover, Lower Saxony.