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Thuringia state premier calls for new polls to undo ‘stain’ of far-right AfD vote

The premier of Germany's Thuringia state stepped down and called for snap elections Thursday, barely 24 hours after he was elected with the help of far-right AfD lawmakers.

Thuringia state premier calls for new polls to undo 'stain' of far-right AfD vote
'Not my state premier': Protesters in Erfurt on Thursday. Photo: DPA

Thomas Kemmerich, from the liberal Free Democrats (FDP), said he would apply for the regional parliament to be dissolved in response to the outrage over his appointment, which drew comparisons with the rise of the Nazis in the 1930s.

“We want new elections to remove the stain of the AfD's support from the office of the premiership,” he told reporters, adding that his resignation was “unavoidable”.

Thomas Kemmerich on Thursday. Photo: DPA

Kemmerich's election on Wednesday marked the first time in German post-war history that a state premier was heaved into office by accepting votes from the far right, crossing a red line in a nation haunted by its Nazi past.

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He became the surprise winner of a run-off vote after AfD lawmakers ditched  their own candidate to back him, in what Kemmerich called “a perfidious trick” by the far right.

Christian Lindner, national leader of the FDP, one of Germany's smaller parties, said Kemmerich was right to free himself “from dependency on the AfD”.

But given the political storm, Lindner said it was necessary to reaffirm  his own position at an emergency meeting of the party's leadership in Berlin on Friday.

“I plan to call a vote of confidence,” he told reporters.

Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier called the vote “unforgivable” and said the result “must be reversed”.

She reiterated that her centre-right CDU would never work with the anti-Islam, anti-immigrant AfD, on a regional or national level.

The SPD and CDU are due to hold crisis talks in Berlin on Saturday.

Aftershocks felt throughout Germany

Thousands took to the streets in cities across Germany late Wednesday to vent their dismay at the vote outcome, including in Berlin, Frankfurt and Thuringia's capital Erfurt.

Some carried signs that read “Never again” and “Voters betrayed”, while  others recalled that it was in Thuringia in 1930 that a Nazi minister was first allowed into government.

The aftershocks of the crisis were being felt elsewhere too, since Thuringian state lawmakers from Merkel's own CDU lined up with the FDP and far right in voting for Kemmerich over popular incumbent Bodo Ramelow from the far-left Die Linke.

In states across Germany's former communist east, the AfD is a major political force and mainstream parties are increasingly scrambling to keep it locked out of the corridors of power.

Since its creation in 2003, the AfD has gone from strength to strength in Germany, capitaliing on anger over Merkel's 2015 decision to allow in over a million asylum seekers.

At the last general election, the party scored almost 13 percent nationwide and won its first seats in the German parliament.

The Social Democrats' Walter-Borjans warned that the world was watching how Germany was dealing with the rise of the far right and the “breach in the dam” in Thuringia.

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POLITICS

Ex-chancellor Schröder sues German Bundestag for removing perks

Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has sued the German parliament for removing some of his official post-retirement perks over his links to Russian energy giants, his lawyer said Friday.

Ex-chancellor Schröder sues German Bundestag for removing perks

Schröder, 78, has come under heavy criticism for his proximity to Russian President Vladimir Putin and involvement with state-backed energy companies.

The decision to suspend Schröder’s taxpayer-funded office and staff in May was “contrary to the rule of law”, Michael Nagel, told public broadcaster NDR.

Schröder “heard of everything through the media”, Nagel said, noting that the Social Democrat had asked for a hearing before the budget committee responsible but was not given the chance to express himself.

READ ALSO: Germany strips Schröder of official perks over Russia ties

Schröder’s lawyers filed the complaint with an administrative Berlin court, a spokesman for the court confirmed.

In its decision to strip him of the perks, the committee concluded that Schröder, who served as chancellor from 1998 to 2005, “no longer upholds the continuing obligations of his office”.

Most of Schröder’s office staff had already quit before the final ruling was made.

Despite resigning from the board of Russian oil company Rosneft and turning down a post on the supervisory board of gas giant Gazprom in May, Schröder has maintained close ties with the Kremlin.

The former chancellor met Putin in July, after which he said Moscow was ready for a “negotiated solution” to the war in Ukraine — comments branded as “disgusting” by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Last week, the Social Democrats concluded that Schröder would be allowed to remain a member after he was found not have breached party rules over his ties to the Russian President.

Schröder’s stance on the war and solo diplomacy has made him an embarrassment to the SPD, which is also the party of current Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

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