Merkel faces new crisis as far-right emerges as kingmaker

Merkel faces new crisis as far-right emerges as kingmaker

Weekly German cabinet meeting
FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, February 5, 2020. REUTERS/Annegret Hilse

BERLIN: Senior figures in Germany's governing coalition will hold crisis talks on Saturday (Feb 8) in response to growing outrage after a state premier was elected with support from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) and Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives.

The election of Thomas Kemmerich, a little-known liberal Free Democrat (FDP) in the eastern state of Thuringia, was the first in which a state premier won with the support of the AfD, shattering the post-war consensus among established parties of shunning the far right.

In a move that outraged her Social Democrat (SPD) coalition partners, Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) sided with the AfD.

Leading members of the crisis-prone national coalition - forged between Merkel's conservatives and the SPD out of necessity in 2018 - are due to meet at the weekend to discuss the situation.

"On the initiative of the SPD, the coalition committee is to meet on Saturday," SPD national leader Norbert Walter-Borjans said late on Wednesday.

The SPD has strongly criticised the election of Kemmerich.

"'Sinful and shameful' - Germany as a whole risks being damaged unless there are new elections in Thuringia," Sigmar Gabriel, a former SPD leader, said on Twitter on Thursday.

Alexander Dobrindt, a senior figure in the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) - the sister party to Merkel's CDU - told regional newspaper Augsburger Allgemeine that Kemmerich's election was "a grave mistake" and that the logical consequence would be to hold a new election in Thuringia.

CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer had already called on Wednesday for a new vote in Thuringia.

The CDU and all the other established parties have previously ostracised the AfD over what they say are racist views held by some of its members.

The SPD is unlikely to desert Merkel's national coalition over the vote in Thuringia but analysts said it would be seen as a test of her authority.

Source: Reuters