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Far Right in Germany ـ The AfD in Thuringia

Sep 17, 2023 | Studies & Reports

European Centre for Counterterrorism and Intelligence Studies, Germany & Netherlands – ECCI.

German conservatives scorned over vote with far-right AfD

DW – Rival parties accuse conservative lawmakers in the German state of Thuringia of making a “pact with the devil.” The Christian Democrats joined the far-right Alternative for Germany to pass a property tax drop.The eastern German state of Thuringia’s center-right Christian Democrats (CDU) are facing sturdy criticism over a vote on new tax legislation that passed with support from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).Rival parties accused the CDU of crossing a line by working with the AfD in a vote that saw the state’s minority government defeated.

What was the vote about?

The CDU joined forces with both the AfD and the neoliberal Free Democrats (FDP) to sink the tax on buying real estate in Thuringia from 6.5% to 5%.Together, the three parties were able to muscle the legislation past the state’s minority government of the Left, the Social Democrats and the Greens, which together have only 42 of the parliament’s 90 seats.The bill passed with 46 votes for the reduction and 42 against.At a national level, the CDU has said it has no intention of working with the AfD, some elements of which are being investigated by German authorities for extremist tendencies.The AfD’s parliamentary faction in Thuringia is led by Björn Höcke, one of the party’s most controversial figures, who currently faces prosecution for allegedly using Nazi rhetoric and inciting hatred.

What the CDU’s rival parties are saying

“The CDU in Thuringia joined forces with the Höcke AfD yesterday,” the national party executive of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s SPD tweeted on Friday. “There must be no cooperation with these enemies of democracy.” SPD parliamentary secretary Katja Mast told Der Spiegel news magazine that the CDU “had planned with the AfD’s votes” from the start. “This is “a historic failure of the CDU,” she said.Green Party national lawmaker Katrin Göring-Eckardt accused Thuringia’s CDU of openly working with the AfD and “breaking a taboo.”Green co-leader Ricarda Lang called on CDU leader Friedrich Merz to provide clarity.

“Our democracy needs a stable conservative force that stands clear when it comes to cooperation with right-wing extremist parties,” she said.Thuringia’s Left Party leader Bodo Ramelow, who is also state premier, accused the CDU of making a “pact with the devil.””This is the blackest day of my long parliamentary career,” Ramelow added, saying the conservatives could have consulted with his government to find a way to deliver on their aim to help the poor without voting with the AfD.The Left group leader in Thuringia’s parliament, Steffen Dittes, accused the CDU of giving the AfD leeway and influence over the state budget.

He said the CDU was beginning to “set in motion a small government coalition in opposition, including the AfD.”Meanwhile, at a national level, FDP lawmakers distanced themselves from their party members in Thuringia who voted alongside the AfD. The relationship between the FDP in the federal government and the party in Thuringia is understood to be strained.

CDU leader defends state colleagues

Regional CDU leader Mario Voigt said consulting with the government on proposed legislation would hamper his ability to effectively run an opposition party.”I can’t make good, important decisions that help families and the economy, subordinate to the risk that the wrong people might vote for them,” he said.The CDU’s Merz has defended the actions of his colleagues in Thuringia, saying the CDU did not shape policy according to what how other parties would vote. He denied that the CDU had worked with the AfD and said the party’s so-called “firewall” against the far-right would be maintained at both state and national levels.

The AfD in Thuringia

Founded a decade ago, the nationalist, anti-immigrant AfD has polled highly in recent opinion surveys.The party stands at 32% in the polls in Thuringia and also tops the polls in three other states in eastern Germany.But Germany’s mainstream politicians have largely kept the idea of working with it off the table.The dangers of uniting with the far-right were highlighted for Merz in July when he was forced from within his own ranks to row back from comments that he could work with the AfD at a municipal level.

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