Thuringia: Leader of smallest party in state parliament elected premier, with AfD support

This is a strange development, and one to keep a concerned eye on. The German state of Thuringia, which held an election October, 2019, will now have a premier from the Free Democrats (FDP), who barely cleared the 5% threshold in the election. The FDP candidate for state premier, Thomas Kemmerich, was elected by one vote over the incumbent, Bodo Ramelow, of the Left Party. With the help of the Alternative for Germany (AfD), an extreme right party, Kemmerich defeated Ramelow in a third round of voting, 45-44.

The two largest parties in the state parliament since the 2019 election are the two most extreme parties in the German party system–The Left with 29 seats, and the AfD with 22. The Christian Democrats (CDU) came third with 21, then 8 for the Social Democrats (8), and 5 each for Greens and FDP (who really did just scrape over with 5.0%). The outgoing government was Linke-SPD-Green. But they fell to 42 seats out of the 90, compared to 46 in 2014. The 2014 outcome was also a little unusual–a three-party coalition excluding the largest party (CDU, which had 34, with Left second on 28). But not as unusual as whatever government Kemmerich will put together now.

I don’t know how common a government led by the sixth largest party in parliament is, but I am guessing pretty uncommon. (Answer in comments!) Kemmerich says he will not bring the AfD into a coalition, but he now owes his position to them. What does this mean for the cordon sanitaire the establishment parties (and the Left, which really can’t be called “establishment”) have been maintaining against the far right?

UPDATE: The premier-elect has resigned, and early elections will be proposed. A decision on early elections requires a vote in the state parliament. In fact, it requires a two-thirds majority, and at this point the state’s CDU leadership has been opposed to returning to the electorate.

11 thoughts on “Thuringia: Leader of smallest party in state parliament elected premier, with AfD support

  1. Can someone with a deeper understanding of German politics answer a question for me?

    Why did Kemmerich only stand in the third round of counting? Without knowing the specifics of how the minister-president is elected, I wonder if I should find it fishy that he entered the race and then “suprisingly” won it.

  2. I believe Kemmerich has said that without SPD/Green support he’ll go to new elections rather than rely on the AfD, and he can’t help who votes for him. So cordon sanitaire is intact I guess?

    And while die Linke is on the far left, I’ve read that their Thuringian wing is the most pragmatic of the bunch (in contrast to the Thuringia AfD which is one of the more extreme branches).

    • SPD and Greens have already said they will not co-operate with Kemmerich. But even such a coalition would require support from a extra party. However CDU does not want co-operation with Linke. Even Gauck ( who is seen as one of the most vocal critics of Linke) had said CDU should try at least a government with support by Linke

  3. On the question of how common it is for a party as small as the sixth largest in parliament to lead the government, Leonardo Carelli, on Twitter, said:

    Spadolini government (1981-1982) was led by a PM from the sixth largest party in the Senate and seventh largest party in the Chamber. Italy: we’ve always got precedents.

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