Call to Dissolve State Assembly as Merkel Steps Into Row Over German Far-Right
The newly-elected premier of Thuringia called for the dissolution of the state assembly on Thursday after Chancellor Angela Merkel said his election with support from her party and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) was inexcusable.
Thomas Kemmerich, a little-known liberal Free Democrat (FDP) in the eastern state of Thuringia, on Wednesday became the first state premier to be elected with the support of the AfD, shattering the post-war consensus among established parties of shunning the far right.
In a move that outraged her Social Democrat (SPD) coalition partners, Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) sided with the AfD.
“This event is inexcusable and so the result must be reversed,” Merkel, who rarely comments on domestic politics during foreign trips, told a news conference in South Africa. “It was a bad day for democracy.”
Merkel said the regional CDU in Thuringia had broken with the party’s values.
Kemmerich responded by calling for the dissolution of the state assembly: “In this way, we want to bring about new elections to remove the stigma of AfD support from the office of state premier.”
In order to dissolve the state assembly, Kemmerich needs a two-thirds majority in the chamber. That would need the support of the far-left Linke, the SPD, the Greens and either the CDU or AfD.
The Thuringia branch of Merkel’s CDU has so far shown no inclination to back such a vote. Asked what he would do if he could not find a two thirds majority, Kemmerich replied: “Then I will ask for a vote of confidence.”
“We are in contact with the CDU,” he added. “We do not know what they will decide.”
German media earlier reported that Kemmerich was ready to step down.
Leading members of Germany’s crisis-prone national coalition — forged between Merkel’s conservatives and the SPD out of necessity in 2018 — are due to hold crisis talks at the weekend to discuss the situation.
The SPD has strongly criticized the election of Kemmerich.
“Sinful and shameful — Germany as a whole risks being damaged unless there are new elections in Thuringia,” Sigmar Gabriel, a former SPD leader, said on Twitter.
CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer had already called on Wednesday for a new vote. The CDU and all other established parties have previously ostracized the AfD over what they say are racist views of some of its members.
The SPD is unlikely to desert Merkel’s national coalition over the vote in Thuringia but analyst Carsten Nickel with the Teneo consultancy said it would be seen as a test of her authority.