German neo-Nazi party's bid stalls in top court

Germany's top court on Tuesday rejected a request by the neo-Nazi NPD party to be given a constitutional stamp of approval even as lawmakers from other parliamantary parties seek to ban it.

The National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) had asked the Federal Constitutional Court in November to rule whether the far-right party conformed to the German constitution.

But in a decision Tuesday, the court dismissed the NPD's petition, arguing that the court's statutes did not allow for such a ruling.

NPD chief Holger Apfel has previously said the party could consider taking the matter to the European Court of Human Rights.

Meanwhile, other parliamentary parties have stepped up their campaign for the Constitutional Court to ban the NPD party, nearly 10 years after an earlier attempt failed.

Lawmakers in the Bundesrat upper house of parliament, which represents the country's 16 states, unanimously backed the move, while the government has not yet said whether it will back such a bid.

The Constitutional Court threw out the NPD's claim that the ongoing debate on outlawing the party had the effect of a virtual ban.

The court argued that objective discussion on the issue was possible.

The Constitutional Court alone holds the power to strike down a political party.

But only the federal government, the Bundestag lower house of parliament, which has not yet decided on its position with regard to a new ban bid, and the Bundesrat can apply for such a ban.

In 2003, a similar attempt spearheaded by the federal government ran aground because the tribunal found that the presence of intelligence agents who had infiltrated the party's ranks muddied the case against it.

Founded in 1964 with the help of former Nazis, the NPD has never won seats in the federal parliament and in 2009 scored just 1.5 percent of the vote -- far from the five percent needed for representation.