Figures of AfD leader Björn Höcke, with his arm outstretched, and the leaders of the CDU and FDP in Thuringia during the Düsseldorf carnival in 2020.THILO SCHMUELGEN (Reuters)
A small political earthquake swept through Germany last week: the Christian Democrats of the CDU managed to push through a bill in the Thuringian Parliament with the votes of the far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD). It was just a vote to lower a tax: neither an investiture nor an agreement to form a coalition government. But it also represented the breaking of a political taboo, a breach in the convention by which the German extreme right must be banned from any space in public life. It was, in short, a shakeup of the cordon sanitaire against the AfD that until recently remained firm and without hesitation. The episode in Thuringia, which occurs at a time when the far-right leads the polls in the east of the country, shows the growing risk that the normalization of the far-right is gaining ground.
The leader of the conservatives, Friedrich Merz, categorically assures that there is no such gap in the cordon sanitaire, or firebreak, as it is known in Germany. He affirms that his party unwaveringly maintains the prohibition of cooperating in any way with the AfD and goes so far as to say, as expressed by the baron of the CDU in Thuringia, Mario Voigt, that his party is not to blame for presenting a good law that others, no matter how unpleasant, whoever they are, decide to support. “We cannot make the solution to problems subject to the wrong side supporting the solution,” Merz said before the controversial vote.
However, this move by the CDU comes in the middle of a long internal debate about whether, where and to what extent it should start cooperating with the AfD. Merz himself added gasoline to the fire a few months ago by suggesting specific collaborations with the ultras at the municipal level. He actually called for pragmatism after this party won its first mayoralty and its first rural district government, the latter precisely in Thuringia. The next day he was forced to rectify the barrage of criticism, but his words left a mark that is interpreted as a sign of change. Now the controversial vote in Thuringia has confirmed it.
Although Merz tries to downplay what happened, voices arise in his party that question this joint vote, in which the liberals of the FDP (government partners of the social democrat Olaf Scholz along with the Greens) also participated. The president of Schleswig-Holstein, Daniel Günther, recalled that the party rules out any type of collaboration with the AfD in its statutes and described the vote as an error. The internal rules literally ensure that “Germany’s CDU rejects coalitions and similar forms of cooperation with both Die Linke (The Left, the post-communist formation) and the Alternative for Germany.” This specific one was approved at a 2018 congress.
The Christian Democrat baron of North Rhine-Westphalia, Hendrik Wüst, has not been as forceful, but has pointed out that conditions in the Thuringian Parliament were difficult and that the background of the vote will have to be analyzed. What he did want to highlight is that the leader of the AfD in Thuringia, Björn Höcke, is a person with whom “nothing should be done at all.”
Join EL PAÍS to follow all the news and read without limits.
While the national ultra party is suspected of posing a danger to democracy, the regional branch of the AfD in Thuringia is formally classified as right-wing extremist and as such is monitored by the German secret services. Its leader, Höcke, is the ideologue of the most radical wing of the party, accumulating more and more power in the party, and is awaiting trial for using Nazi slogans at his rallies. The measure of his radicalism is given by the fact that in 2019 a court allowed his critics—and the press—to call him a “fascist” without fear of receiving a complaint. The Christian Democrat deputy Kai Whittaker has also publicly regretted on his X account (formerly Twitter) the collaboration with the AfD, even more so because it occurred precisely in Thuringia, the most clearly xenophobic group.
But it is in Thuringia, and in the other former East German states, where the dilemma facing the CDU is best evidenced. The far-right leads the polls in four of the five eastern länder (Brandenburg, Saxony, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Thuringia) and elections are barely a year away in three of them. AfD benefits from Germans’ concerns about inflation and uncertain economic prospects. In national polls he is in second place, with 21% or 22% of voting intention. A success that raises doubts about how long the cordon sanitaire as known until now can last.
The situation is devilish for the CDU. Should he stay in the center or launch into battle on the issues that benefit extremists? The party now finds itself in this ideological discussion, which sees how it will be increasingly difficult to form a government by having to exclude a party that holds more than 30% of the vote in some territories. Lately, in addition, another discussion has emerged, that of what is considered cooperation. The Bavarian president, Markus Söder, leader of the CDU’s sister party, the CSU, rejects any type of relationship: “Even if it is a coffee chat in a local parliament,” he said.
In the Thuringia vote, the CDU can, for the moment, claim that there was no prior agreement, not even conversations on the matter. He maintains that he did not know whether the AfD would support his proposal. Many doubt this, among other things because the chamber is small (barely 90 deputies) and it would be easy and discreet to agree on anything, but neither the press nor the tripartite government led by the leftist Bodo Ramelow have been able to demonstrate that such an alliance existed.
The truth is that at the local level there have already been several joint votes that have allowed management decisions to be made. In Radebeul (34,000 inhabitants, Saxony), the CDU and AfD voted together to rename a square after an opera singer. The election was not particularly controversial, but the motion came from the AfD and the CDU supported it, something that in principle goes against the Berlin guidelines, recalls a report by public television ZDF, which has looked for examples of what could be considered small gaps. of the cordon sanitaire. In the Thuringian Parliament, the proposal did not come from the AfD, but for its critics it was also, in Ramelow’s words, “a pact with the devil.”
Follow all the international information on Facebook and Twitteror in our weekly newsletter.
Subscribe to continue reading
Read without limits
#success #farright #AfD #opens #cracks #German #sanitary #cordon