BERLIN – Germany's parliament voted Thursday to cut off public funding for parties with anti-constitutional aims, a move aimed at a far-right party that authorities tried unsuccessfully to ban.
Lawmakers voted 502-57 in favor of the change, with 20 abstentions. A two-thirds majority was required to modify the constitution.
In January, Germany's highest court ruled that the National Democratic Party, or NPD, is too politically insignificant to justify a ban but said its goals run counter to the German constitution. Officials then vowed to examine ways of cutting off funding.
The NPD received just 1.3 percent of the vote in Germany's 2013 national election and its electoral fortunes have since declined further ahead of this year's federal vote on Sept. 24. It has no seats in the national parliament and lost its last seats in a state legislature in an election last September in the northeastern region of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.
It still has representatives at local level and a single seat in the European Parliament, though, and receives money based on its electoral performance like other parties. Last year, the NPD received nearly 1.14 million euros ($1.27 million).
That's a small fraction of the roughly 160.5 million euros that was handed out to all parties, but Justice Minister Heiko Maas argued that "tax money for the NPD is a state investment in radical right-wing agitation."
"The state does not have to finance enemies of democracy," Maas said in a statement, though he added that it is up to everyone to "defend with determination our democracy and fundamental rights."
The NPD said that "the established parties are once again showing their questionable attitude toward the rule of law, equality of opportunities and democracy."