Government crisis in thuringia: fight for new stability

The Left Party only wants to put Ramelow up for re-election if there are reliable promises from the CDU and FDP. The first talks will take place next week.

There will probably be a few more meetings in Thuringia Photo: Martin Schutt/dpa

On Monday, after the first prime minister to be sworn into office with votes from the AfD was sworn in and resigned barely 72 hours later, winter storm "Sabine" also reached Erfurt. It was the first day of vacation in the federal state, actually a time when there were no meetings. But in keeping with the stormy weather, the major political weather situation in Thuringia also remains volatile. How do we get back to stable conditions? That’s the question on the minds of all parties in the state parliament, with the exception of the AfD.

On Wednesday, the AfD, CDU and FDP in Thuringia’s state parliament elected FDP politician Thomas Kemmerich as prime minister to finally unseat incumbent Bodo Ramelow of the Left Party. The tremor that followed the dam breaking to the right was huge. In addition to the new, now caretaker premier Kemmerich, the victims also include the frontman of the Thuringian CDU, Mike Mohring, and the CDU’s federal chairwoman, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. Both of their party careers are coming to an end.

The Thuringian Left Party met again on Monday for the first time since Bodo Ramelow was voted out of office. For his party, it is still first of all a matter of forming a workable government, said the deputy party chairman Steffen Dittes afterwards to the taz. Once this government is in place, the first thing to do is to get the budget underway and, in parallel, prepare for new elections.

There is no way around new elections, Dittes said. "This legislature will definitely not last until 2024." Until last Wednesday, he said, he believed it would be possible to work with the CDU and FDP in phases and on the issue. "But that presupposes trust. That has been destroyed," Dittes explained.

CDU members call for new elections

According to the state constitution, however, new elections are now only possible if the state parliament decides to dissolve it with a two-thirds majority, specifically 60 out of 90 votes. But the designated red-red-green coalition has only 42 seats, and the CDU, which currently has 21 seats, sees no need for new elections in view of abysmal poll numbers.

But at the grassroots level, there are certainly individual members who are also publicly in favor of it. Wolfgang Fiedler, a former member of the state parliament, told Deutschlandfunk radio on Monday morning that a clear cut must be made now.

Treffurt CDU city councilor Lutz Koscielsky also thinks new elections are a painful but necessary evil in order to take responsibility. "Anything else would have a taint." Koscielsky, a successful master baker, also urges that his party finally acknowledge reality: they lost the election and 70 percent of Thuringians thought Ramelow was a good prime minister. In other words, there is nothing to stop CDU members of parliament from voting for the popular prime minister.

Koscielsky does not think much of his party’s call to now back an independent candidate. "Without Ramelow, the voters would feel screwed after all." He also says his party’s strategy of maintaining the same distance from the AfD and the left is no longer in line with the times. "I think it’s bad when Ramelow is compared to Hocke." The CDU must now face this issue head-on, he said.

Declaration of intent is no longer enough

The left-wing former state premier Bodo Ramelow, who was still complaining in the Spiegel interview that he had been made a fool of, could even emerge stronger from the storm. The Left, Greens and SPD continue to back Ramelow as a candidate for prime minister. However, the Left Party only wants him to run if it can be sure he will be elected in the first round of voting.

"We will not put Bodo Ramelow up if we do not feel this certainty," Dittes said. A statement by Thuringia’s CDU faction on Thursday that it would abstain in the election for prime minister is therefore no longer sufficient. "CDU and FDP must declare sufficiently binding that a stable majority is ensured from their factions."

Whether both parties agree to this? Next week, they will meet for talks: Left, SPD and Greens as well as the CDU’s four-party negotiating group consisting of Mario Voigt, Raymond Walk, Volker Emde and Andreas Buhl. It is not yet clear whether the FDP will join. In any case, these would be the first talks at party level between the five groups.

The CDU and FDP had previously ruled out such talks and declared that they would only negotiate with Prime Minister Ramelow personally. But he is no longer in office. The result of such a meeting could be a special session of the state parliament in February. A new prime minister would then be elected at this meeting.