Berlin Christian Lindner noticed the tension when he stood in front of the cameras at the FDP headquarters in Berlin late Wednesday afternoon. While the party leader was making a statement, he briefly pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and tapped it. Lindner formulated carefully, he did not allow questions.
Because the process that he had to explain is a breach of political taboo: three hours earlier, the Thuringian state parliament had elected the FDP parliamentary group leader Thomas Kemmerich as the new prime minister in the third ballot. With the voices of the AfD, which is led by the right wing politician Björn Höcke in the eastern German state.
Kemmerich was “candidate of the middle” against an AfD applicant and the previous incumbent Bodo Ramelow from the left, said Lindner. “It is understandable that the Union supported him.” The support from the AfD, on the other hand, was surprising, had nothing to do with the content, but was “purely tactically motivated”. Lindner made it clear that there would be no cooperation whatsoever with the AfD as long as he was the party chairman. “We do not support the goals and values of this party,” said Lindner. Kemmerich had made this clear in a hastily arranged telephone line for the party leadership. However: “Anyone who supports our candidate in a secret election is not in our power.”
But it’s not that simple, at least from the perspective of the other parties. Kemmerich could lose the unexpected prime ministerial post before he even formed a government. Lindner called on Union, SPD and Greens to cooperate with Kemmerich. But neither the SPD nor the Greens want to work with Kemmerich.
And the Union also sees no basis for a stable government. “The best for Thuringia would be new elections,” said CDU General Secretary Paul Ziemiak. Despite the demands of the federal leaders, the CDU parliamentary group there spoke out against it. “We see our responsibility in avoiding standstill and new elections,” said a spokesman for the group on Wednesday.
FDP leader Lindner, in turn, realistically assesses the situation: “Should the Union, SPD and Greens fundamentally refuse to cooperate with the new government, then new elections would be expected soon and, in my view, necessary.” urns.
“Nobody can sneak away”
But the political damage is much greater than a failed government formation. The Erfurt quake happened at 1:28 p.m. when Kemmerich was elected as the new prime minister in the third ballot. The FDP candidate received 45 votes, Ramelow, who had previously ruled with a red-red-green alliance, received 44 votes. It quickly became clear that Kemmerich was not only put into office with the support of his small FDP group and the Union, but also by the AfD.
Kemmerich tried to clarify: “The firewalls against the AfD” would remain. He was “a bitter opponent of everything that has only a hint of radicalism or fascism”. He was an “anti-hump”. The Thuringian AfD leader once founded the party’s right-wing national wing, which the Office for the Protection of the Constitution classified as a suspected case in the field of right-wing extremism.
The events in Thuringia were “a taboo breach in the history of political democracy in the Federal Republic,” said Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD). “This has effects far beyond Thuringia.” SPD leader Norbert Walter-Borjans wrote on Twitter: “The fact that the liberals give the straw man for the grip of right-wing extremists to power is a first-rate scandal. Nobody can sneak away from the Berlin party headquarters. “
The Greens described the Kemmerich election as prime minister with AfD votes as a “cultural break”. In a joint statement by the party chairmen Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck as well as the group leaders Katrin Göring-Eckardt and Anton Hofreiter it said: “We expect Thomas Kemmerich to resign immediately.”
Hennig-Wellsow: “It has nothing to do with democracy”
Erfurt-born SPD politician Carsten Schneider accused the CDU and FDP of “giving the AfD the opportunity to become a stirrup holder for a prime minister.” That was “a heavy burden” for CDU boss Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and FDP boss Lindner, the parliamentary director of the SPD parliamentary group told the Handelsblatt. “Their assertions against cooperation with the enemies of democracy” were “exposed as hollow talk”. “You can’t rely on the CDU and FDP when it matters.”
There is also astonishment in parts of the Union. “The fact that the FDP accepts the AfD as a stirrup holder is shameful and a turning point in the history of German parties and parliament,” said the Thuringian CDU member of the Bundestag, Tankred Schipanski, the Handelsblatt. Schipanski also went to court almost as hard with his Thuringian party friends. The factions of the FDP and CDU in the Thuringian state parliament had fallen into the “trap” of the AfD. “The will of voters is turned completely upside down by a five percent party hiring a head of government.”
No votes for the AfD candidate
Working with Kemmerich should not be an option for Schipanski either: “Should the CDU Thuringia get involved in a government under Kemmerich, the flaw of this choice will also stick to it with the help of the AfD, and it will lose credibility.” CDU General Secretary Ziemiak admitted that members of the Union would have accepted to elect a prime minister from the AfD with the “votes of Nazis”.
Thuringia’s CDU country chief Mike Mohring defended the outcome of the election when he left the Erfurt plenary hall: The CDU had “taken responsibility for the country” and “voted for the middle candidate”. The Thuringian CDU was “not responsible for the candidates and the behavior of other parties”. In the future, however, Mohring ruled out any collaboration with the AfD. The CDU would not work in a government with ministers of the Right Party. Prime Minister Kemmerich must now clearly delimit to the right.
Kemmerich had only started in the third ballot, in which the relative majority was sufficient. Ramelow had previously failed twice because of the absolute majority – the red-red-green alliance has only had 42 of the 90 seats in the state parliament since the election. The non-party AfD candidate Christoph Kindervater had received 25 votes in the first two ballots. In the third ballot, the father of children no longer got a vote – not even from the AfD group. Instead, Kemmerich was chosen.
After the state election at the end of October, Ramelow had initially tried to convince the FDP or the Union to tolerate it. The Union initially flirted with supporting Ramelow, but quickly withdrew after the top leadership signaled its clear rejection. The already complicated conditions in Thuringia have now become even more difficult.
“Path to disaster”
For Forsa boss Manfred Güllner, the result evokes memories of the Weimar Republic. “We are getting into the fairway of Weimar,” Güllner told the Handelsblatt. “Back then, the conservatives allowed the Nazis to share in the power. The conservatives thought that the Nazis could be fenced in and their powers limited. The result is known, ”he said. After only six months, all democratic institutions, including the parties, had been dissolved. “The path to the catastrophe could no longer be stopped,” said Güllner.
In the end, it doesn’t matter whether the Erfurt election result “is based on strategy or stupidity,” he added. “A few MPs from the FDP simply shouldn’t have chosen their candidate.” Either they would have done it consciously and thus made the AfD a stirrup holder. Or they were not aware of the consequences of their actions. “The result is the same in both cases,” said the Forsa boss.
Güllner warned against playing down the AfD. “The AfD has fully absorbed the right-wing radical potential that has always existed in Germany. The majority of AfD voters stand for a closed right-wing radical world view. That applies equally to the AfD in the west and the AfD in the east, ”he said.
The events in Thuringia seem to be very convenient for the AfD. Immediately afterwards, the AfD parliamentary group leader in the Bundestag, Alexander Gauland, sent a press release entitled “The bourgeois forces prevailed in Thuringia”. The marginalization of his party did not work, said Gauland. “We congratulate Thomas Kemmerich on his choice and wish him a happy hand.”
More: Kramp-Karrenbauer reproaches Landesverband and wants new elections in Thuringia – SPD angry. The news blog.