The Irish Times view on Germany’s political watershed: A dark day

For the first time in postwar history, far-right support helped a politician into office

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, leader of the Christian Democrat Union (CDU). Photograph: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, leader of the Christian Democrat Union (CDU). Photograph: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

 

Germany is grappling with its own political watershed. Last week, for the first time in postwar history, a politician was helped into office with far-right support. The vote for a new minister president in the eastern state of Thuringia saw the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) back the local Free Democrat (FDP) candidate Thomas Kemmerich.

Though he commands just five seats in the parliament, the FDP man was elected minister president ahead of the Left Party incumbent, with the largest parliamentary grouping. It was clear his election hinged on far-right support, but Kemmerich accepted the post anyway – only to hand it back 25 hours later. By then the damage had been done.

he most charitable interpretation of events is that the FDP and the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), were so fixated on blocking another coalition led by the Left Party that they were blind to the danger to their right.

Eastern voters will not forget last week’s dark day for German democracy

Some locals see grim parallels to events of 80 years ago when, also in Thuringia, Hitler’s National Socialists secured their first minister post. Others are reminded of the fatal miscalculation in Berlin in 1933 when German conservatives, hungry for power, brought Hitler into play as a useful idiot – only to learn, too late for them and the world, that they were the idiots.

History doesn’t repeat itself and the AfD is not the Nazi party. But its leader in Thuringia, Björn Höcke, likes to cite Hitler in speeches and criticises Germany’s “cult of guilt” over its war crimes. He has made a laughing stock of the FDP and undermined still further the already modest authority of CDU federal leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

The most heartening signal from last week is how, within minutes, protesters began gathering outside the Thuringian state parliament. Disproving assumptions that eastern Germany has a weak civil society, angry locals shamed their politicians, who had either forgotten their 1930s history or never learned it in the first place. Eastern voters will not forget last week’s dark day for German democracy.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.