Merkel’s Coup in Thuringia

Recent headlines: “German Conservatives’ Faustian pact with the far-right” (Spiegel International), “Germany shaken as far-right helps elect regional leader” (The Independent) and “Turmoil that Echoes Nazi Germany” (New York Times). This is how elements of the international press greeted the news that the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Alternative for Germany (AfD), elected Thomas Kemmerich (FDP) as Prime Minister of the Free State of Thuringia on February 5.

Consternation Over Thuringia Election Result

In Germany the vote triggered apoplexy in many circles. Neues Deutschland attacked the “Pact with the Fascist AfD” as protestors took to the streets in Berlin, Leipzig, Frankfurt and many other German cities. The German weekly newspaper the Junge Freiheit reported that the FDP has submitted over 100 complaints to the police since the start of the political crisis and that Kemmerich and his family have been placed under police protection.

Well, the experiment was not to last. At the behest of Merkel, the Thuringian CDU dropped their support for Kemmerich who resigned a mere 25 hours later.

Who is Mephistopheles in Thuringia?

In the “Faustian Pact” the media describes, Mephistopheles is of course the national political pariah AfD, and its controversial local leader Björn Höcke in particular. In the Bundestag on February 11, Merkel accused the AfD of having a clear agenda: to undermine and destroy democracy. Merkel’s decision to torpedo the government in Erfurt appears to have been driven by pressure from her SPD Grand Coalition partners to quit the government but that is not a full explanation. The CDU has increasingly drifted leftwards under Merkel and in one particularly notorious and emblematic episode at a conference in 2015 the chancellor grabbed a German flag from a colleague and, disgusted, cast it away. It is not only the AfD that is in the firing line. In recent days CDU politicians have outrageously described a conservative group in the party called the Werte-Union (Values Union) as a “cancerous tumor”. It would seem to be CDU politicians rather than the AfD that is employing Nazi-style rhetoric. Such is the state of the CDU under Angela Merkel.

Echoes of the 1932 Coup in Prussia

The astonishing chain of events in Thuringia over the last few days was not a fascist coup attempt by the AfD. Rather, the defenestration of Kemmerich calls to mind the notorious Preußenschlag (Coup in Prussia) of July, 1932 when Chancellor Franz von Papen took over Germany’s largest state on the basis of an emergency decree issued by President Paul von Hindenburg. Von Papen’s move had been prompted by the fact that the center-left coalition that had ruled Prussia since 1918 had lost its majority in the state parliament in April, 1932. Under the Prussian constitution, a government could be removed from office only if there was a positive majority for a prospective successor. The Communists and National Socialists between them held over half the seats but would not cooperate with each other or with other parties. The coalition remained in office until the controversial step by the Reich government. It is to be noted, however, that in contrast to the Prussian Prime Minister Otto Braun in 1932, Kemmerich actually did have a majority behind him in the Erfurt state parliament.

Criminal complaints issued against Merkel

According to Junge Freiheit, the AfD has submitted a criminal complaint under section 106 of the German Criminal Code against one Merkel for coercion of a member of a constitutional organ. The chancellor had commented during a trip to South Africa that the election of Kemmerich had been “unforgivable” and “must be reversed”. Kemmerich announced his resignation the following day. The party has also decided to submit a legal warning with a cease and desist declaration to the chancellor in relation to abuse of office.

The newspaper further reports that Björn Höcke is also planning to submit a criminal complaint against the chancellor. Höcke made reference to a report in the Welt according to which Merkel threatened that unless Kemmerich resigned immediately the two coalition governments with the FDP in Schleswig-Holstein and North-Rhine Westphalia would be terminated. Höcke commented that Merkel is no longer Chair of the CDU and had made the comments in her capacity as chancellor. “That is nothing less than a Putsch against a constitutional organ of the state of Thuringia”, he added.

Merkel has Undermined German Democracy

Former SPD leader Gabriel has commented that Merkel has “saved Germany’s honour”. In fact, Merkel has undermined the independence of a Federal State, weakened Parliamentary government and violated the right to freedom of conscience of Thuringia’s Parliamentarians. Germany is now—in effect—dominated by a cartel of far-left and center-left parties. The unquestioning pro-Merkel line taken by vast swathes of the media is particularly unsettling; a phenomenon also observed during the migrant crisis of 2015 and 2016. As Roger Köppel of Weltwoche has noted, Germany has become a “gelenkte Demokratie” (a guided or managed democracy).