Local leaders of Angela Merkel's CDU and the center-left SPD have been left horrified after their representatives elected a member of the far-right NPD to head a local authority. There were no alternative candidates.
Prominent members of Germany's mainstream centrist parties expressed their shock and disgust on Saturday after it emerged that their representatives had elected a member of the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) as a municipal administrator.
The NPD's Stefan Jagsch was unanimously elected to the position in the village of Altenstadt-Waldsiedlung, in Hesse, central Germany, on Thursday by seven council members who included representatives of Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), and the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP).
"Intolerable and completely unacceptable!" tweeted SPD deputy leader Ralf Stegner as the news was confirmed on Saturday. "This is completely incompatible with the basic values of the SPD! This damages the reputation of social democracy!"
According to regional public broadcaster hr, Altenstadt's SPD leader Markus Brando said those at the meeting had been forced to elect Jagsch because there were no alternative candidates. He said he had called a special party meeting to find an explanation.
In a joint statement, two CDU leaders in Hesse declared their "shock and absolute lack of understanding" at Jagsch's election. They added that this "wrong decision" had to be corrected.
Jens Jacobi, chairman of the local FDP, also expressed his party's shock at the incident, but underlined that the party representatives involved were not actually members of the party, but had joined the party's candidate list as independents.
Read more:A guide to Germany's far-right parties
On his official Facebook page, Jagsch posted a statement confirming that he had been unanimously elected, and promising that he would "work for the interests of the town and continue to work constructively and across parties."
On his personal Facebook page, Jagsch can be seen holding up a placard that read, "They say migration and they mean genocide," during a 2018 demo against the United Nations Migration Pact.
This is not the first time that Jagsch has made headlines beyond his region: In 2016, he received first aid from a group of Syrian refugees when he was seriously injured in a car crash. The Hesse NPD leader Jean Christoph Fiedler at the time said the Syrians had "performed a very good, humane deed."
The NPD is one of Germany's oldest and most well-known far-right parties, and has consistently been shown to harbor neo-Nazi ties. Germany's Constitutional Court ruled in 2017 that the party's aims violated the German constitution, but that there were no grounds for a ban. Since then, the government has tried to block the party's state funding.