Thuringia voted!

Posted by Mad Mitch on  UTC 2020-02-07 14:04

Three long months. Months dominated by Brexit, impeachment, Meghan, Harry, Andrew, a period which is now culminating fittingly in a worldwide plague.

While all that has been going on the German state of Thuringia has been trying to unravel the political knot tied by its confused voters last October. Put simply, the political tangle has arisen because the new party in Germany, the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) received nearly a quarter of the votes.

In normal circumstances the political skulduggery called 'coalition building' would have taken over and made something out of the confused party landscape, but for one great problem: the rhetoric of all the other parties has been to represent the AfD as political pariahs, untouchables. If you have the misfortune to find yourself in the same room or TV studio as these black-hearted, brown-shirted, white-German supremacists you must slip on the hazmat suit, clamp on the face mask and say nothing apart from a muffled shout of 'Nazi'!

Well, this is fine in TV studios on the very rare occasions that TV studios invite anyone from the AfD to spew their Nazi bile at the viewing public, but when nearly a knuckle-dragging quarter of the voters elect these hideous knuckledraggers to represent them the splendid isolation of a hazmat suit no longer works. Politically, etwas muss geschehen, 'something must happen'. For all the other parties, entering into a coalition with these political cockroaches was unthinkable, or, as we put it last October:

The situation after the current election is even worse. To the sane, a coalition between the CDU, AfD and FDP would make perfect ideological, centre-right sense. But, since the CDU nationally has become a left-wing party in coalition with the left-wing SPD, such combinations will remain clouds in the German electorate's coffee for the foreseeable future, leaving the field to combinations of oddball minority parties for which hardly anyone voted.

So for three months, while the world has worried about this and that (poor Meghan, how she must be suffering!), a chap called Bodo Ramelow, a leftover from the old East German one-party state, has been fiddling around with the tangled skein of this election result, trying to make a coalition. In addition to his many disadvantages, Ramelow has two advantages as Prime Minister: one, he was the previous incumbent of the post and two, he managed not to make a complete mess of the job. But without the support of the AfD or the ideological freedom to bring them into a coalition, his task was destined to fail.

Now, after three months of futile fiddling, a coup took place in the state Parliament last Wednesday, 5 February. A member of the centre-right Liberal party (FDP), a chap called Thomas Kemmerich (who?), was elected as the new Prime Minister. Bye bye, Bodelow (or Bilbo or whatever you name is)! Kemmerich represented the logical centre-right alignment we wrote about three months ago: CDU, AfD and FDP.

Unfortunately, after suffering serial abuse, Lady Logic packed her bags and flounced out of German politics many years ago and so was not around to lend a hand on this occasion. Kemmerich's election had depended on the votes of the AfD members in parliament. It was thus tainted by the black spot of association with those Nazi knuckledraggers representing a quarter of the electorate in Thuringia. Nevertheless, for a very brief moment it seemed that the Great Thuringian Knot had at last been severed at one decisive stroke, as the Gordian Knot had been before it.

Admittedly, it was rather bizarre that a member of the FDP, the smallest party in parliament, a party that had only just managed to get over the hurdle to be represented there at all, should end up as Prime Minister. Still, 'wafted by a favouring gale' and all that… In the absence of Lady Logic and in the context of all the other bizarre aspects of the present shambles in Thuringia, bizarre might be considered to be the new normal in German politics.

There were howls of outrage from the German political class that the taboo had been broken. Kemmerich, as it were, had turned up at the bar mitzvah with a pocketful of pork scratchings. The German word these days for such howls is Shitstorm. Overnight, Kemmerich, poor chap, suddenly found himself a political unperson. And not just on social media and in the talk shows either: unwashed political agitators took noisily to the streets in many German cities. He was denounced by everyone, even by the national leadership of the FDP, his own party.

Thus, one day after his political triumph, he was forced to resign and fill his mouth with the ashes of repentance. The political powers-that-be had spliced the loose strands of the Great Thuringian Knot together, added a few extra loops for good measure and that is where we are now.

Unfortunately, Prime Ministers of German states can't just resign. As we have pointed out previously (endlessly!), the framers of the German Constitution, the shifting sands of the Weimar era and that Austrian upstart on their minds, put everything they could think of into the constitution that would ensure stability. Hence the Figures of Speech First Law of German Politics: nothing ever really changes.

Once such figures have been elected they have to tough it out for four years. If the situation is dire enough they can call new elections. Oh, the irony! Thanks to the wisdom of the founders, this impotent parliament requires a decisive two-thirds majority in order to dissolve itself. Like a fly with only one wing, it will have to spend the little time that is left to it buzzing round in noisy but ineffectual circles

Thuringia may now go from a coalition that no one wants to an election that no one wants.

Though the FDP has requested the calling of a new election, that this should happen at the initiative of the smallest party in parliament – itself barely there – seems unlikely. But let's be completely honest, no one has any idea of what is going to happen next.

We on this website still bear the scars of previous election forecasting, but this time all the parties and the commentariat agree that new elections will, at best, just return the same muddle – because muddle is the political nature of much of Germany at the moment – or, at worst, punish the other parties once more and benefit those pariahs, the AfD. It is fair to say that the parties forming the national coalition, the CDU and the SPD, are paralysed with fear and self-doubt.

Ultimately, despite all this shameful superficial turmoil, the Figures of Speech First Law of German Politics still holds – nothing ever really changes.

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