Erfurt, Germany (dpa) – Lawmakers in the central German state of Thuringia dealt a shock to the establishment in electing their regional premier on Wednesday, in a development that could have broader implications for Germany’s political landscape.
Thomas Kemmerich of the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) unexpectedly won the vote for state premier, beating the incumbent, Bodo Ramelow of the hard-left Die Linke party.
A candidate put forward by the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) got zero votes, indicating that the party had instead thrown its support behind the FDP in the crucial third round.
Ramelow was pipped at the post by Kemmerich, who got 45 votes, one more than his rival.
“This is the first time in the history of the federal republic that a [state] premier has been voted into office with support from the AfD,” political scientist Andre Brodocz told the local MDR broadcaster.
The FDP only just made it into the Thuringia state parliament in October elections, beating the necessary 5-per-cent hurdle by 73 votes.
Ramelow scraped together a three-way coalition made up of his Linke party, the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) and the Greens. The alliance comes to 42 seats in the 90-member state parliament.
They were expected to win Wednesday’s vote because the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), the party of Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the FDP had categorically ruled out working with the AfD.
The far-right party has been on the ascent for years amid growing opposition to refugees, transforming from a small anti-euro protest party into a major opposition force in state and federal politics.