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Merkel’s party cooperates with far right to elect liberal state premier

EPA-EFE/FILIP SINGER
The new elected State Prime Minister of the Free Democratic Party (FDP), Thomas Kemmerich, announces his resignation just one day after his election, in Erfurt, Germany, 06 February 2020. Political parties and citizens calling for protest reacted to yesterday's surprise election of Kemmerich as the new state premier of Thuringia. Kemmerich became premier with the votes of Alternative for Germany (AfD), a right wing party that so far had been shut out of coalition agreements.

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Lawmakers from Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AFD) faced criticism about cooperating on Wednesday, when they voted to install a liberal as leader of the eastern state of Thuringia. The vote was secret.
Thomas Kemmerich, the little-known politician of the small party Free Democrats (FDP), was elected with 45 votes to 44. This is the first time a state premier has been elected with support of the aggressively nationalist AFD, who is known for its anti-EU, anti-immigration, anti-Islam and xenophobic views.
The Social Democrats, coalition partners to Merkel’s party, accused the CDU and the FDP of collaborating with the AFD, who decided not to vote for their own independent candidate but support Kemmerich instead.
“A representative of the FDP’s liberal democrats has allowed himself to be elected state premier in Thuringia by the illiberal anti-democrats of the AfD. And the CDU plays along”, said Saskia Esken, co-leader of the Social Democrats.
FDP leader Christian Lindner called the AfD’s support “surprising,” adding: “We do not support the goals of the AfD. But we have no power over who supports our candidate”.
Kemmerich was also criticised within his own party for allowing himself to be elected with AfD votes.
Later in the day, after a meeting with his party leader, Christian Lindner, Kemmerich announced he will step down: “Resignation is unavoidable. Democrats need democratic majorities”, he said.
Merkel said it was “unforgivable” that politicians from her party voted with the AfD to remove Thuringia’s leftwing premier, and that the outcome “has to be reversed”. She also accused the Thuringia CDU of abandoning the “values and beliefs” of the party.
If the vote is not redone, Kemmerich will have to form a new government, which will be difficult as he has vowed not to work with the AfD. However, the FDP and CDU alone would not have enough seats even for a workable minority government.

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