Thuringia, the courage of Angela Merkel


The crisis in Thuringia is starting to normalize it. After the reckless maneuver of the Thuringian liberals and Christian Democrats with which a President of the Land (Kemmerich) of the smallest parliamentary group (the liberals) was voted with the votes of the far right of AfD, the situation was unlocked from the return of Angela Merkel from the institutional trip to South Africa and Angola. The coalition of the German government has expressed itself clearly for early elections and has excluded the formation of governments or majorities with the votes of AfD both nationally and regionally. A very clear message also to the parliamentary groups of the Christian Democrats in Thuringia who had initially declared themselves opposed to the early elections. Almost at the same time as the communication of the majority of the German government came the resignation, announced Thursday but formalized Saturday, of the new president Kemmerich.

The scenario of a possible new government of Bodo Ramelow, Die Linke’s outgoing President, who had the support of Verdi and Spd, has waned. At this point, art. 50 of the Constitution of Thuringia which provides that one third of regional deputies (at least thirty) can present a motion for the dissolution of parliament. It is not enough that it be signed by a single party: currently the CDU has 21 deputies, Die Linke 29, AfD 22, SPD 8, Greens and liberals 5. Assuming that the motion is supported by at least 30 deputies, it must then be voted by at least two thirds of Parliament, or 60 MEPs. A transversal and broad consensus is therefore needed in a parliament of 90 Members who is currently very divided and quarrelsome.

That Merkel played a decisive role in the affair is demonstrated first by the harsh condemnation of the election of Kemmerich when the chancellor was still in Africa, but also by the revocation of the position as commissioner of the government delegated to the new Länder (i.e. the regions of the former East Germany) to Christian Hirte, a member of the CDU who congratulated the new Thuringian president Kemmerich. It is clear that within the CDU, many, from the second lines, supported the Thuringia operation by secretly dialoguing with the AfD and agreeing on a common strategy with the far right. The clash in the CDU is potentially very serious. There is a minority yet substantial part of the party that does not share Angela Merkel’s progressive and moderate policy and prefers to dialogue with AfD rather than with leftist forces. It is a national conflict that has found a perfect battlefield in Thuringia. It is here that national and regional events have intertwined and that the entire strategy of excluding the AfD from any form of political cooperation has been questioned.

The decision of Merkel and the majority of the government to ask for early elections is a gesture of authority by the Chancellor compared to a regional section in Thuringia that is far too rebellious and also demonstrates considerable political courage. Currently the polls are not very comforting for Christian Democrats given around 12 percent (minus 10 percent compared to last October). To benefit from new elections would be the far left (Die Linke), which would get 37 percent, and the far right of AfD (24 percent). Merkel and CDU preferred to save their profile, knowing that they would face a significant loss of votes, rather than being forced to abstain and thus allow the election of a President of Linke. In this scenario, AfD would have had an easy time presenting itself as the only authentically conservative force.

The use of early elections is the best way to get back to clarity in an all too confusing political situation in which too many, from the outgoing President Bodo Ramelow to the resigned Thomas Kemmerich, from the parliamentary group of the CDU-Thuringia to the right of AfD, they hurt their accounts, acting exclusively for personal gain.

Whether the strategy of excluding right-wing extremism is politically sustainable in the long run will depend not only on the chancellor but on a responsible ruling class.

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