The German Bundestag is having a heated debate after the Prime Minister election in Thuringia. All parties are shaken and concerned about democracy – but for different reasons.
The Prime Minister election in Thuringia did not let go of German politics. The Left Party had a current debate in the German parliament about the election in Erfurt and its “effects on democracy and international relations”. The latter, however, hardly played a role, the discussion was a German navel show. If there was a common denominator, it was this: All parties are shaken, albeit for different reasons.
The FDP politician Thomas Kemmerich was elected Prime Minister in Thuringia on Wednesday last week with the votes of the AfD. Kemmerich wanted to send a signal for the political center, FDP leader Christian Lindner said in the Bundestag. But his motive had been reversed by the AfD votes. “We are hurt,” said Lindner, and “ashamed.” He apologized on behalf of his party, which was responsible for the damage. “Erfurt was a mistake,” said Lindner, “but we do everything we can to prevent it from happening again.” The FDP chief announced an internal party working group that will deal with the electoral process. The AfD will never be part of the bourgeois camp, he said. By describing itself as bourgeois, the party is working on its own trivialization and devaluing the term. Lindner reprimanded the behavior of the AfD in Erfurt, which moved away from its preferred candidate in the third ballot and voted for the FDP candidate. This was cunning and dishonorable, destruction.
Alexander Gauland, the leader of the AfD faction, saw things differently. What had happened in Thuringia was the “most natural thing in the world”. He defended the election tactics of the Thuringian AfD: If the desired candidate had no chance, it was normal for a party to move away from him and choose the lesser evil for them. On the other hand, it is not normal if an attempt is made to undo a democratic election. Gauland referred to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s press conference in South Africa, at which she said that the result of the Thuringian election must be reversed.
Höcke is a Nazi
Paul Ziemiak, the general secretary of the CDU, called the Erfurt AfD chief Björn Höcke a Nazi. Because of politicians like him, there could be no form of cooperation with the AfD. Cooperation with the Left Party is also ruled out, and nothing should change. “What should we think about?” Asked Ziemiak. “Should we count the wall dead again?” Parts of the Left Party would be observed by the German constitutional protection.
Left Party MP Amira Mohamed Ali said that after World War II, there was consensus between democratic parties that there was no Nazi cooperation. But this principle was broken on February 5th in Erfurt. What differentiates 2020 from the 1930s, when the Nazis came to power, is the public protest that triggered the Thuringian election.
Merkel “à la bonheur”
In the discussion, it was easy to forget that the AfD as a whole was not classified as extremist by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. SPD MP Elisabeth Kaiser made the following difference: the AfD was a democratically elected party, but not a democratic party. The reason given was the AfD’s approach to the election in Thuringia and contacts with right-wing extremist groups. Green politician Katrin Göring-Eckardt said that there could only be one answer to fascism: “No.” The FDP and the CDU would not have given this answer in Erfurt. In the direction of the AfD group, she said: “They do not love this country, they want to see it burn.” She wanted to know from Lindner whether he still saw “national liberalism” as the root of the FDP. If not, cooperation “among democrats” is possible.
The SPD deputy Carsten Schneider praised the Chancellor that her reaction to the election was “à la bonheur”. AfD leader Tino Chrupalla, however, assumed that Merkel was destroying the foundation of democracy. Thomas Oppermann, who led the session as Bundestag Vice President, repeatedly called on the assembly to rest.