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Merkel: Far-right backed state premier vote 'unforgivable'

February 6, 2020

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called the election of Thomas Kemmerich as Thuringia state premier with far-right help "unforgivable." Kemmerich has now said he would step down.

Angela Merkel in South Africa
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/K. Nietfeld

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday that it was "unforgivable" that a state premier had been elected expressly because of the support of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

"The result must be reversed," she said during a press conference while on a visit to South Africa, calling the election "a bad day for democracy."

Later on Thursday, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) announced they would apply for the Thuringia state parliament to be dissolved. Their candidate, the newly-elected Thomas Kemmerich also said that he would step down.

Why was there such an outcry?

Kemmerich's election as state premier by the Thuringia state parliament sent shockwaves through political Germany.

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.

Kemmerich's election was also supported by the regional Christian Democrats (CDU), Merkel's party. She accused the Thuringia CDU of abandoning the "values and beliefs" of the party.

Read moreOpinion: A disgrace for Germany 

How did we get here?

In Thuringia's state elections last October, the Left party emerged as the clear winners with 31%, but the AfD came in a clear second and managed to double their share of the vote from the previous election with 23.4% support. Since then, the Left party had been working on a coalition agreement with the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) and the Green party.

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.

The aftermath of Kemmerich's election brought widespread condemnation of the FDP on social media, with the Left party saying they prefer "to rule with fascists than not to rule at all." Spontaneous protests broke out in Berlin and outside Thuringia's parliament building in the state capital Erfurt.

What could happen next?

If the vote is not redone, Kemmerich will be tasked with trying to form a new government. However, this could prove difficult as he has vowed not to work with the AfD, and the FDP and CDU alone would not have enough seats even for a workable minority government.

Kemmerich was heavily criticized for accepting a congratulatory handshake from the AfD leader in Thuringia. Björn Höcke has regularly been slammed for his anti-Semitic remarks, including advocating the abolition of a law that makes Holocaust denial illegal in Germany.

The AfD is known for its anti-immigrant and xenophobic views, as well as climate change skepticism and opposition to LGBT+ rights.

AfD: A platform for grievances

es/rt (dpa, Reuters)

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