Friday, February 07, 2020

Breaking the cordon sanitaire in Germany

Part of the story of the Nazis' rise to power in Germany was the willingness of mainstream right-wing parties to work with them to keep out the left. Because of this, one of the fundamental rules of postwar German politics has been "do not work with Nazis". As a result, successive far-right parties have found themselves isolated, unable to get anywhere. Until yesterday, when the "mainstream" Christian Democrats and Free Democrats colluded with (neo-Nazi) Alternative für Deutschland to roll the left-wing Thuringian state premier. But it hasn't worked out like they expected:

A German state premier elected with help from the far-right Alternative für Deutschland has announced he will step down, succumbing to widespread outrage across the country and condemnation from Angela Merkel.

A postwar consensus among established parties of shunning the far right was broken on Wednesday when Thomas Kemmerich won the election in the eastern state of Thuringia on the back of votes from the chancellor’s Christian Democratic Union and the aggressively nationalistic AfD.

The little-known Free Democrat (FDP) politician told German media on Thursday morning that he was right to have accepted the mandate, arguing that fresh elections would merely play into the hands of the far right and the far left.

By lunchtime, however, after a meeting with his party leader, Christian Lindner, Kemmerich had changed his mind. “Resignation is unavoidable,” he said. “Democrats need democratic majorities.”

To their credit, national party leaders acted quickly to stomp this, recognising the huge damage it would do to their reputations, and the Free Democrats leader will be facing an internal confidence vote as a result. But some of that damage has already been done, and its a reminder that to the right, racism and death camps is better than higher taxes and labour rights.

As for Thuringia, its unclear whether they will call a new confidence vote, or new elections. If the latter, then hopefully the right-wing parties will be punished for their collaboration.