German state lawmakers at center of far-right scandal agree on governor

BERLIN — State lawmakers in eastern Germany agreed on a way to vote in a new state government without the support of a far-right party, avoiding a repeat of a decision earlier this month that caused a political uproar at the national level.

Thuringia state lawmakers from several parties said late Friday that they agreed to hold another vote next month to choose the state’s governor and to have the next state elections in April 2021.

An earlier vote in parliament led to the ouster of Thuringia’s incumbent governor. A pro-business candidate won the office only because lawmakers from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party supported him along with state representatives from the regional branch of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union.

The Free Democrat’s Thomas Kemmerich’s acceptance of AfD’s votes — and the Christian Democrats’ voting with far-right colleagues — appalled left-leaning parties and many in the mainstream center-right camp. Merkel called Kemmerich’s election “inexcusable.”

He resigned three days after winning the state governorship. Partnering with the far-right has been a political taboo since after World War II.

Under the agreement announced Friday, state leaders of Merkel’s party agreed to support the reelection of Thuringia’s previous state governor, Bodo Ramelow of the left-wing Die Linke party.

The government Ramelow led lost its majority in an October state election. In a first for Germany, the election produced no majority coalition without the addition of AfD or Ramelow’s party, known as The Left in English. The Christian Democratic Union, or CDU, shuns the party as a descendant of East Germany’s ruling communists.

Reactions to the lawmakers’ new plan were split.

Thuringia’s state CDU defended the deal, saying in a statement Saturday that, “the agreement for stability does not mean it’s a coalition… but a cooperation limited by time and focused on the well-being of Thuringia.”

But the deal received criticism at the national level. CDU Secretary General Paul Ziemiak reminded party lawmakers in the eastern state that the Christian Democrats had decided in the past not to enter coalitions with Die Linke, German news agency dpa reported.

“This is about the credibility of the CDU in general,” Ziemiak said, adding that the party “rejects all coalitions and similar forms of cooperation with both The Left party and the Alternative for Germany.”

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