German Coalition Demands New Elections in Thuringia After Far-Right Row

Social Democratic Party (SPD) deputy leader Kevin Kuehnert speaks to a journalist during a demonstration organized by an alliance of youth organizations in front of the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, February 8, 2020. (Reuters/Annegret Hilse)

Germany’s ruling coalition on Saturday called for fresh elections in the eastern state of Thuringia, whose pro-business premier stepped down only two days after being helped into the job with votes from the far right.

On Thursday, Thomas Kemmerich of the FDP became the first state premier to get into power with the support of the far right AfD, which sided with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) in the vote.

Kemmerich on Saturday declared his immediate resignation, FDP’s Thuringia branch said on Twitter, prompting the heads of Germany’s ruling parties – the CDU, the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Social Democrats (SPD) – to call for new elections.

“The election of Thuringia’s state premier with a majority that was only reached with the votes of the AfD, is unforgivable,” they said in a joint statement, adding a new premier had to be elected right away.

The scandal has been particularly damaging for the CDU because the AfD branch in Thuringia is headed by Bjoern Hoecke, a militantly anti-immigrant figure who leads a radical wing within his party that is monitored by the domestic intelligence agency for possible unconstitutional activities.

A poll on Friday showed support for the CDU in Thuringia falling by some 10%.

The scandal has also weakened CDU national leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, a protege of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Seen by many as Merkel’s would-be successor, Kramp-Karrenbauer is struggling to assert her control over the conservative party after the Thuringia branch defied her and sided with the AfD.

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