An electoral earthquake in the German state of Thuringia is reverberating across the country and its aftershocks are being felt in Brussels.
Berlin’s political establishment has been rocked by an electoral pact between the conservative Christian Democrats, liberal Free Democrats (FDP) and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) that has propelled a local FDP candidate to power in the eastern state of Thuringia. By co-operating with the AfD, and ousting the sitting leftwing prime minister of the region, Germany’s mainstream parties have “torn up” a postwar consensus to ostracise the extreme right, writes Guy Chazan.
Stinging condemnation has rung out from all corners — including the highest ranks of the CDU. Before Wednesday the liberals and conservatives had vowed never to work with the AfD. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, CDU defence minister, lashed out at the Thuringian branch of her party for explicitly disobeying Berlin’s orders. Elected FDP candidate Thomas Kemmerich is under immense pressure to resign and hold new elections. Around 1,000 noisy protesters gathered outside the FDP’s HQ in Berlin on Wednesday accusing the party getting into bed with the “Nazis”.
Bild breaks down how Thuringia’s election became an unforeseen “scandal” that has left the country’s political class and public commentators reeling.
Incumbent Bodo Ramelow of Die Linke was expected to form a minority coalition with the greens and the centre-left after the CDU and FDP rejected an alliance. In a final round ballot, where only a simple majority was needed for victory, the anti-Islam AfD shifted all their votes to the unfancied Kemmerich (along with the CDU) — giving him victory by one vote and crossing the Rubicon for modern Germany.
Kemmerich insists he will never allow the AfD to enter government as he tries to build a coalition (the FDP holds only five seats in the regional parliament). Liberal leader Christian Lindner has tried to save face by calling on the CDU, SPD and Greens to work with the party and keep the far-right at bay. Die Zeit’s Christoph Seils thinks Mr Lindner’s attempt to distance himself from events in Thuringia are “halfhearted”. Paul Ziemiak, the CDU’s secretary-general, accused his party of “setting the country on fire”.
The tearing apart of Germany’s cordon sanitaire has shaken Brussels. Guy Verhofstadt, the former leader of the European Parliament’s liberal family that includes the FDP, compared Kemmerich’s election to Hitler’s rise to power. This week marks 90 years since the National Socialists assumed power in Thuringia for the first time.
The FDP’s actions are also an embarrassment for Renew Europe — Emmanuel Macron’s pro-EU alliance in the European Parliament that includes the FDP. Other member parties such as Spain’s Ciudadanos have previously come under fire for courting the support of the extreme right Vox in regional elections. Renew’s Estonian party last year clung to power by forming a coalition with white nationalists.
Renew’s leadership is facing calls to kick the FDP out. Dacian Ciolos, group leader, on Wednesday called the FDP tactics “totally unacceptable”. “We stand by our values. I hope local liberals will act accordingly”.
Chart du jour: funny money
Most people would rather use digital currencies issued by their national central banks over private tech companies such as Facebook, according to a major new study which is likely to encourage central bankers in their mission to go crypto.
Romania’s shortlived caretaker prime minister Ludovic Orban is on his way out after his government lost a confidence vote after three months. (DW) Still, Mr Orban’s centre-right party is riding high in opinion polls and is in a strong position to win any early elections. (Romania Insight)
Writing in Der Standard, Andras Szigetvari wants Austria to abandon the “nonsensical” idea that it only pays into the EU budget when the country’s businesses benefit vastly from cohesion contracts in eastern and central Europe. Ahead of this month’s mega summit, the BB has learnt that EU ambassadors representing the “friends of cohesion” told their counterparts that if their demands are not met, the summit is doomed to failure.
Punching below their weight
Martin Sandbu thinks Spain has a unique opportunity to start throwing its weight around in the EU after Brexit:
Spain’s politicians face an exceedingly EU-friendly electorate and have little to fear from pushing new European initiatives. But they have often seemed not to have much of a policy to push.”
Look who’s back
Luxembourg’s veteran finance minister is a contender to lead the eurogroup later this year, reports Wort. Pierre Gramegna was a candidate in 2017 when he lost out to Portugal’s Mário Centeno.
Frederick Studemann examines how Germans are thinking about their new relations with post-Britain — including plans for a new “friendship treaty” and cultural exchanges.
In case you missed it
Kim Willsher’s blistering column in The Guardian on why there’s no conspiracy plot to cover up France’s “revolution”:
“There is no civil war. I’ve covered conflicts and revolutions: they tend to involve more than baton-wielding police and teargas, and the bullets are real not rubber. What is most depressing is that underpinning the conspiracy theories is the fact that so many people have such little trust in the traditional media that they will believe this patent nonsense.”
Coming up on Thursday
Christine Lagarde is in the European Parliament to face MEPs on the economic affairs committee from 9am. Lagarde comes to Brussels fresh from receiving the Grand Prix de l’Économie from France’s Les Echos newspaper.