SHARE
COPY LINK

POLITICS

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.

READ ALSO:

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.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

TRANSPORT

How the Greens want to replace Germany’s €9 ticket deal

New proposals drafted by the Green Party have set out plans for two new cheap travel tickets in Germany as well as a shake-up of the country's travel zones. Here's what you need to know.

How the Greens want to replace Germany's €9 ticket deal

What’s going on?

Germany’s €9 travel deal has been hugely popular this summer, with an estimated 30 million or so passengers taking advantage of the offer in June alone. Now the last month of the three-month offer is underway, there are hopes that the ticket could be replaced by another deal that offers simple, affordable travel on a regional or national basis.

There have been a few ideas for this floating around, including a €365 annual ticket and a €69 monthly ticket pitched by German transport operators. Now the Green Party has weighed in with a concept paper setting out plans for two separate travel tickets to replace the €9 ticket. The paper was obtained by ARD Hauptstadtstudio on Friday. 

Why do they want two different tickets?

The first ticket would be a regional one costing just €29 a month and the second would be a €49 that, much like the €9 ticket, would be valid for the whole of Germany.

This would allow people who mainly stay in their local region to opt for the most cost-effective option while long-distance commuters or those who want to travel further afield could opt for the nationwide offer.

Presumably the ticket would once again be valid for local and regional transport only rather than long-distance trains like the ICE. 

To simplify the system even more, the Greens also want to introduce new travel zones for the regional monthly tickets.

READ ALSO: Has Germany’s €9 rail ticket been a success?

How would the travel zones change?

According to the paper, Germany would be divided into eight regional zones that would include the Berlin-Brandenburg area, the eastern German states of Thuringia, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt and the northern states of Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania. 

The zones take passengers “statewide at a minimum”, the paper says, for example in the larger states of Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and North-Rhine Westphalia.

However, as the map below shows, states will also be clustered together to make larger regions.

One of the major draws of the €9 ticket has been the flat-rate system that allows passengers to travel anywhere in the country using the same ticket. This appears to be what the Greens are trying to replicate with their proposals. 

READ ALSO: What happens to Germany’s €9 ticket at the end of August?

How would this be financed? 

As you might expect, the Green Party is placing less eco-friendly forms of transport in the crosshairs as it looks for cash to fund the cheap tickets.

The first way to free up cash would be to end tax breaks for people with company cars. In addition, taxes on CO2 emissions would be increased. 

This would result in “additional revenues for the federal government and the states, which could flow seamlessly into the financing of cheap tickets”, the paper states. 

However, the Greens don’t set out how much money they think this would bring in or how much the discounted tickets would cost the state in total. 

Is this definitely going to happen?

At the moment, it seems that the Greens are the main voices in the coalition government pushing for a longer term travel deal – and they continue to face opposition from the pro-business FDP.

Unfortunately for the Green Party, the FDP happen to be heading up two crucial ministries that could both play a role in blocking a future offer: the Finance Ministry and the Transport Ministry. 

However, with four out of five people saying they want to see a successor to the €9 ticket in autumn, Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) is currently under pressure to come up with a replacement as soon as possible. 

A passenger sits on the platform a Berlin Hauptbahnhof

A passenger sits on the platform a Berlin Hauptbahnhof waiting for a train. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Joerg Carstensen

At a press conference a few weeks ago, he promised to discuss this with the state transport ministers after analysing how successful the ticket had been.

In particular, researchers will want to look at how many people ended up leaving the car at home and taking the bus or train instead.

Though the data on this is inconclusive at the moment, some studies have shown reduced congestion on the roads while the ticket was running.

In a survey of The Local’s readers conducted last month, 80 percent of respondents said they had used public transport more with the €9 ticket and 85 percent said they wanted to see a similar deal continue in the autumn.

Of the options on the table so far, a monthly €29 ticket was by far the most popular choice.

READ ALSO: ‘Affordable and simple’: What foreigners in Germany want to see after the €9 ticket

SHOW COMMENTS