Merkel's party accused of breaking taboo by supporting far right

Elias Hubbard
February 6, 2020

"This is in no way in line with what the CDU thinks, how we have acted throughout our party's existence", she said.

Thomas Kemmerich, of the small pro-business Free Democrats, was elected as governor of eastern Thuringia state by its regional legislature on Wednesday with the help of the far-right Alternative for Germany, or AfD.

The situation is being described as a political quake, as the mainstream parties have always refused to do deals with Alternative for Germany (AfD).

Meanwhile, the Left (Die Linke), which was in power in Thuringia for nearly 30 years, reported a nationwide boom in new entries.

She was echoed by Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party head Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who dubbed yesterday's election "a bad day" both for Thuringia and Germany.

"What has happened in Thuringia is not just a matter for Thuringia" but for federal politics too, he told broadcaster ZDF.

The CDU has repeatedly said it would never cooperate with the radical anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim party, which entered the German parliament after the last election. Paul Ziemiak, the party's secretary-general, called it a "dark day" for the state.

Members of the two government parties, CDU and the SPD, organised a crisis meeting in Berlin on Saturday to discuss the issue.

Addressing the local parliament in Erfurt, Kemmerich sought to ease concerns by insisting he would stick to a pre-election pledge not to work with the AfD.

"You have in me a bitter opponent of anything that even hints at radicalism, from the right or left, or fascism", he said, to jeers from local MPs and shouts of "Hypocrite!" and "Charlatan!"

That prospective coalition's agreement to govern together was signed on Tuesday, paving the way for state lawmakers to elect Thuringia's premier on Wednesday, a vote most had expected Ramelow to win.

But the party's deputy leader, Wolfgang Kubicki, welcomed Kemmerich's election as state premier.

Yet, it is Thomas Kemmerich from the liberal Free Democrats, who holds just five seats in the local parliament, who surprisingly came out as the victor of Wednesday's vote and immediately assumed his mandate.

Thuringia belongs to Germany's former communist east, where rejection of the far right has not taken such deep roots as in the west in the decades since the country's 1990 reunification.

The debacle is a triumph for Björn Höcke, the regional AfD leader, who has been compared to Hitler by German national television.

He has in the past called for a "180 degree turn" in Germany's culture of remembrance for the Holocaust and other crimes of the Nazis, which form a central pillar of the country's post-World War II political life.

It is the first time that the AfD has been a "kingmaker" and helped a state premier to power.

The result caused a shock as not only had the FDP barely cleared the 5% support threshold to join the legislature, but he beat incumbent Left party candidate Bodo Ramelow by a single vote only because the AfD decided not to vote for their own independent candidate but support Kemmerich instead.

She must either persuade Mr Mohring and the regional CDU to disown their support for Mr Kemmerich's government, or she faces trying to expel them from the party.

Central Council of Jews in Germany president Josef Schuster said in a statement he was "horrified" by Wednesday's vote.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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