German centrist parties humiliated in Thuringia election

German centrist parties humiliated in Thuringia election

The far-left Die Linke has beaten the far-right Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) in Sunday’s regional election in Thuringia, eastern Germany, both overtaking the centrist Christian Democrats (CDU), Greens, Liberals and Social Democrats (SPD). 

The election saw a turnout of 66 per cent, compared to less than 53 per cent in 2014.

Securing 30 per cent support, Die Linke’s popular regional leader Bodo Ramelow is set to retain power if he can find a coalition partner. His existing coalition with the Social Democrats and the Greens no longer forms a majority.

Ramelow, 63, is one of the most popular politicians in Germany with an approval rating of 62 per cent.

The AfD more than doubled its support to about 23 per cent of the vote. It achieved similar gains last month in state elections in nearby Saxony and Brandenburg. The populist AfD’s Thuringia leader Björn Höcke, 47, leads the party’s hard-right faction and is under investigation by Germany’s intelligence agency.

Höcke, a history teacher, compared the AfD’s successes to Die Wende, the popular uprising against East German communism. “Today the Thuringians backed Die Wende 2.0,” he told cheering supporters. 

“They refused to let themselves be influenced by hatred and rabble-rousing. Not once in the history of the federal republic has a single party and a single individual been as defamed as we have.”

Die Linke is only slightly less threatening to the established parties. 

During the campaign, the CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, 57, portrayed Linke as a socialist counterpart to the AfD.

The CDU, which had come top in every previous election in Thuringia since unification in 1990, slumped to 22 per cent of the vote. The SPD performance declined to 8.2 per cent, barely above the threshold required for representation in the state parliament.

Reiner Haseloff, the CDU’s chief minister in Saxony-Anhalt, told ZDF: “This is the first time at a state election that there has been no majority for the parties of the centre.”

Charlotte Knobloch, 86, a Holocaust survivor, said the vote for the AfD pointed to the “erosion of democratic culture”. “When this kind of party is so successful, something in the political system has fundamentally gone off the rails,” added the former president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. 



Picture credit: IHA

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