Germany crisis: Merkel rages over ‘bad day for democracy’ before state premier resigns

Thomas Kemmerich announced he would step down “with immediate effect” after winning the election in the eastern state on February 5, with the backing of Alternative for Germany (AfD). Mrs Merkel, whose own party also supported Mr Kemmerich against the wishes of its national leadership, called the vote a “bad day for democracy” and said it should be reversed. Mr Kemmerich, who won the premiership for the liberal Free Democrats, will continue in a caretaker role until a successor is found, Deutsche Welle reports.

He said any money gained as a result of his role would be returned to the Treasury.

The results of the election prompted national outrage and the ballot was described as a political earthquake.

It marked the first time the AfD had played a role in forming a government in Germany.

This represented a break from the long-held stance among the country’s main parties who have refused to work with extremist parties.  

However, Mr Kemmerich hit back at critics, saying his party had not cooperated with the far-right, who have a broad base in Thuringia.

Speaking during a visit to South Africa shortly after the results were announced, Mrs Merkel condemned the vote by MPs.

The Chancellor said: “It was a bad day for democracy, a day that broke with the long and proud tradition of the CDU’s values.

“This is in no way in line with what the CDU thinks, how we have acted throughout our party’s existence.”

The political scandal has been particularly damaging for Mrs Merkel’s CDU because the AfD branch in Thuringia is headed by Bjoern Hoecke.

Mr Hoecke, a militantly anti-immigrant figure, leads a radical wing within his party that is monitored by the domestic intelligence agency for possible unconstitutional activities.

A poll on Friday showed support for the CDU in Thuringia had fallen by some 10 percent.

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On Saturday talks were held in Berlin where leaders of the coalition government to find a solution to the crisis.

The vote also dealt a blow to the CDU national leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who is widely tipped to replace Mrs Merkel as Chancellor after she steps down next year.

Mrs Kramp-Karrenbauer is seen to be struggling to assert control over the conservative party after the Thuringia branch defied her wishes and sided with the AfD.

The crisis deepened when Mrs Merkel fired a federal government office after he congratulated Mr Kemmerich on his big win.

Christian Hirte’s good wishes angered the Chancellor’s coalition partners, the Social Democrat, who said he could not state in his job.

Mr Hirte, who was the government’s commissioner for the formerly communist east and a deputy economy minister, said he had resigned after Ms Merkel told him he could no longer do the job.

The deputy leader of the CDU’s Thuringia branch who sits in the national parliament had reached out to Mr Kemmerich on his “election as a candidate of the centre”.

In a message posted on Twitter, he said the vote showed the state had voted out its previous left-wing government, and made no mention of AfD’s role.

The AfD’s popularity has grown in recent years but it has been criticised for its anti-immigration stance.

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