Free Democrat (FDP) politician Thomas Kemmerich breifly became the new Minister-President of the German state of Thuringia after the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) cooperated with the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) for the first time.
Mr Kemmerich received just one more vote than his rival, former Thuringia Minister-President Bodo Ramelow of the far-left Die Linke, and has become only the second-ever regional leader for the FDP since the end of the Second World War.
The vote is the first time the populist AfD, led by traditionalist conservative firebrand Björn Höcke, has cooperated with the CDU, the party of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
While the AfD could form a majority coalition in the Thuringian parliament alongside the CDU and the FDP thanks to major gains in last year’s regional elections, CDU veteran and former Minister-President of Thuringia Bernhard Vogel rejected cooperation with the AfD, Bild reports.
German Populists Surpass Merkel Party in Regional Elections https://t.co/aztnt0ViPK
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) October 28, 2019
The sentiment was echoed by CDU national leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer who wrote: “The Presidium of the CDU unanimously followed my line: no CDU ministers in a ‘Kemmerich cabinet’, no cooperation with the AfD.”
“The best thing for voters in Thuringia to do again is to vote,” she added. Björn Höcke, meanwhile, congratulated Kemmerich on his election to Minister-President and thanked Christoph Kindervater, an independent initially backed by the AfD for PM.
Following the announcement of the new Minister-President, Die Linke Thuringia head Susanne Hennig-Wellsow threw a bouquet of flowers at the feet of Kemmerich rather than hand them to him as would be considered normal, and claimed the election had been planned in advance, shaming Kemmerich for working with the AfD.
Mainstream politicians and media expressed enormous amounts of outrage over the cooperation between the populist-right AfD and the centre-right CDU such as Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who stated: “Letting right-wing extremists elect you as Minister-President is completely irresponsible. All Democrats must stand together against the AfD. If you don’t understand that, you haven’t learned anything from our history.”
Populist AfD Sees Massive Gains in Eastern German Regional Elections https://t.co/KyPj0bBJWU
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) September 2, 2019
Others, such as Die Linke chairman Bernd Riexinger, called the move a breach of taboo “that will have far-reaching consequences” and labelled Höcke a fascist.
Many in the mainstream media voiced similar reactions including Editor in Chief of newspaper Die Welt Ulf Poschardt, who said the cooperation with Höcke has brought “disgrace to liberalism”.
On Wednesday evening, protests against the election erupted in several German cities inside and outside of Thuringia with the Thuringian parliament in Erfurt surrounded by a thousand or more far-left demonstrators demanding Kemmerich resign.
Just 24 hours after his election, Kemmerich bowed to pressure from the mainstream parties and media and resigned as Minister-President saying, “The resignation was inevitable. Nobody forced us. We have analyzed the events and the reactions in the state parliament, in the media and social media.”
“There was no cooperation with the AfD, there does not exist and will not exist,” he added and the FDP group in Thuringia also released a statement saying, “Thomas L. Kemmerich wants to remove the stain of AfD support from the Minister-President’s office.”
Chancellor Merkel also applied pressure to Kemmerich to quit saying the election was “unforgivable” and added, “It was a bad day for democracy. It was a day that broke with the values and beliefs of the CDU.”