Pam Barker | Director of TLB Europe Reloaded Project
What Happens in Thuringia, Won’t Stay in Thuringia
Last week I outlined why Thuringia was ground zero for seismic shifts in German politics. The fallout from the bombshell dropped on Chancellor Angela Merkel continues this week.
First Merkel had to remove hand-picked successor Annagret Kramp-Karrenbauer from leading the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) because she is inept.
Now, the head of the CDU (ER: Merkel’s party) state party in Thuringia, Mike Mohring, has stepped down, another casualty of Merkel’s iron-fisted policies to deny parties outside of her purview from entering the German political mainstream.
Mohring understood that there was no coalition in Thuringia without the CDU climbing down off its high horse and making a deal with either euroskeptic parties which dominated the polls there — Die Linke or Alternative for Germany (AfD).
And, according to this article from Zeit Online (English translated version by Deepl is here), Mohring tried to work with everyone to come up with a solution which didn’t end in tears.
But none of those were acceptable to Merkel because not only did she make an alliance with AfD verboten for the local CDU, so was any alliance with Die Linke, who were the winners in the election.
This makes zero sense since a Die Linke/CDU alliance in Thuringia would have kept continuity of government there with Bodo Ramelow remaining in charge.
Why would Merkel do that? Die Linke isn’t a direct threat to Merkel’s CDU nationally nor was their win there out of the ordinary.
Again, it comes back to what I’ve talked about in previous articles on this, Merkel’s now not-so-secret alliance with the Greens. The Greens have had, for decades, outsized control over the legislative agenda because of their thin spread across the Bundesrat which gives them de facto veto status in the German Upper House.
In demanding that the FDP’s Thomas Kemmerlich step down as Prime Minister of Thuringia through the unelected and non-constitutional Coalition Committee, Merkel is committing a Reichsexekution, or intervention into state-level affairs, which is a direct contravention of German Basic Law.
Rightly, AfD see this and are suing Merkel over this. ‘Kept’ German media are downplaying this but this is a real constitutional crisis, especially now that the latest polling has the most likely outcome of snap elections in Thuringia ending with a Die Linke/AfD coalition.
Because Merkel’s problem won’t solve itself unless the Greens capture at least 5% to qualify for seats in Thuringia’s parliament and therefore can be part of the coalition government.
CDU membership in Thuringia don’t hold with Merkel’s autocratic rules on acceptable behavior. They see their party collapsing from internal strife and Merkel’s intractability. They are paying the price at the state level.
The result is a quickly fracturing CDU, with leadership candidates like Frederich Merz (pictured) proving nearly as tone-deaf to what’s happening as Merkel.
Merz has to walk back comments implying AfD were “Holocaust-denying rabble” while he downplays his favoring an outright Green/CDU coalition.
Comments like this will not endear him to traditional CDU supporters, nor will a CDU/Green coalition be something they’ll vote for. At some point, AfD have to see the opportunities in front of them to take just five points from the CDU and throw Merkel’s electoral calculus into complete disarray.
The problems in German politics extend far beyond Angela Merkel. And AfD’s rise puts pressure on people unaccustomed to dealing with this kind of pressure.
We’ve seen this story before. It’s played out with the inept bumblers trying to stop Brexit and impeach Donald Trump. We’re watching another round of it trying to put Matteo Salvini in jail for doing his job in Italy, a job which even the prosecutor in Sicily absolved him of.
This is the fundamental problem of German politics. Merkel uses the Greens to betray Germany to the EU against the a healthy resurgence of German national spirit, which is truly trying to reconcile the country’s shameful 20th legacy with the realities of today.
But the constant shaming of people nearly four generations removed from those events to twist electoral politics only lends AfD’s criticisms of Merkelism more credence. It only enrages and alienates more people from the traditional parties.
This situation isn’t going away. It’s going to get worse as the CDU is now in disarray. AfD have their sights firmly set on Merkel, and we’re just eighteen months from a general election in Germany.
The center has completely collapsed in Germany, as it has in so many countries in Europe. The European parliamentary elections made this point loud and clear.
But whatever happens in Thuringian politics over the next few weeks, I’m certain they will have far bigger effects than who controls the budget of a small east German state.
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