Outrage over Right-Wing Alliance in Thuringia Is Overblown

Mainstream conservative parties in the state gave the far right nothing for its support.

Thuringia Germany state parliament
The state parliament of Thuringia, Germany debates legislation in Erfurt, June 12, 2019 (Thüringer Landtag)

Politicians in Berlin are up in arms about an alliance between the mainstream right and far-right Alternative for Germany in the central state of Thuringia.

Lars Klingbeil, secretary general of the ruling Social Democrats, spoke of a “low point in Germany’s postwar history.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel called the election of a liberal state premier with far-right support “unforgivable”.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the head of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and presumptive successor, said it was a “bad day for Thuringia and a bad day for Germany.”

Hitler comparisons are rife, coming even from party leaders in Brussels.

This is all a little over the top.

Accident

Thuringia’s CDU and liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) didn’t seek an alliance with the Alternative. They accidentally ended up in one.

Left-wing parties have 42 out of ninety seats in the state legislature. The combined right has 48. Outgoing prime minister Bodo Ramelow of the far-left Die Linke failed to win reelection. Both the CDU and the Alternative (AfD) voted for the liberal candidate, Thomas Kemmerich, instead.

Kemmerich has no intention of bringing the Alternative into his government. “The firewall to the AfD is still standing,” he said.

The far right got nothing for its support. There are no deals. National politicians who are upset at the Thuringian CDU and FDP may want to explain how exactly they were supposed to prevent the AfD from voting with them?

Assuming Kemmerich stays in power, he is more likely to work with the Social Democrats and Greens than the AfD to pass legislation.

Experiences

If he is willing to work with the Afd, that would be a point of concern. The experience in other Western countries, and indeed in Germany itself, has been that when the mainstream right shifts to and appeases the far right, it shoots itself in the foot. Rather than persuade right-wing voters to stick with the mainstream right, shrinking the distance between the two makes it easier for voters to switch to the extremes.

This happened most recently in Spain, where the conservative People’s Party and liberal-nationalist Citizens adopted the far right’s positions on abortion, immigration and the Catalan independence crisis and made the neo-Francoist Vox the third party.

It happened in the United States, where Republicans for years indulged their most radical supporters and ended up with Donald Trump. The party’s platform now has more in common with the European far right than with center-right parties, such as Britain’s Conservatives and Germany’s CDU.

Austria is an exception. There, conservative party leader Sebastian Kurz somehow emerged stronger from a failed deal with the far-right Freedom Party. But Kurzism doesn’t travel well.


Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter