The Lesson from Thuringia, Germany

In Germany, the fight for Democracy is sacred

mikael hertig, farveportræt

Mikael Hertig


By Mikael Hertig, Political Commentator

Election and the one day government in Thuringia

Billede af Thüringens FDP partiformand i februar Thomas Kemmerich

Thomas Kemmerich, one day Prime Minister in Thuringia, Germany


The state of Thuringia, with its 2.2 million inhabitants, is one of Germany’s smallest states. Thuringia is located in former East Germany and is known for the major cities of Erfurt (capital), Jena (Carl Zeiss optics) and Weimar (cultural city and home of the German parliament after World War I).

In the Thuringian elections at the end of October 2019, the extreme right-wing AfD more than doubled, gaining 24.8 %. Die Linke  (Left Wingers) grew by a few percent to 31%. SPD  (Social Democrats) decreased to 8.4%. The CDU slumped from 33.5% to 21.8%. The Liberal FDP has just reached the 5.0% barrier.  Die Grüne  (The Green Party) also came in at 5.2%.




In Germany, Democracy is sacred




It is fundamentally assumed in modern German politics that no votes from the AfD should count when forming  a government.  “Alternative für Deurschland” is in broadly  understood as The Alternative to Democracy.  The There is no majority for cooperation with  Die Linke, who in other states is heading into regular German heat after being held outside, like the AfD. Coalition opportunities are hampered by the embarrassment of Die Linke on the part of the bourgeois parties. It is inconceivable that the bourgeois parties will support a government in which Die Linke has its seat. So, the situation has long looked as stalemate.

Germany has positive parliamentarism. That is, a government must be supported by a majority in Parliament. In Denmark, we have negative parliamentarism; here it is sufficient not to have a majority against.

In Thuringia, since the negotiations began, it has therefore been an extremely difficult task to form a majority. This happened around February 6 – 7, when the small FDP party chairman Thomas Kemmerich suddenly turned out to be the top figure gaining support from CDU and AfD.

The unthinkable had happened: It is a sacred bread in German politics to build the basic structure of a government at the AfD at all. It is a fundamental requirement of all German politics that the return to undemocratic conditions must not at all be possible. The reactions were so strong because the intervention of CDU chairman Kramp Karrenbauer failed. Some people let things happen. It happened locally in Erfurt. Month-long attempts to form a government were finally successful, and forming a government after an election can, of course, also be seen as a fundamental task in Thuringia. But the consequence was perceived as a  disaster for German democracy at all.

The reaction came from the CDU’s chancellor Merkel, not from party chairman Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. Merkel was in South Africa. Do not shake hands on this point in German politics. But it stayed there. First in Erfurt, because the FDP, which is constantly fighting against the barrier, and the CDU at all found themselves relying on a right-wing party’s votes.



In Denmark, democracy is straining, while we take it for granted.



In Denmark, we always associate Nazism solely with Anti-Semitism. We ignore the importance of the Nazis’ path to power taking place partly by democratic means. The Nazis in Germany were elected as a party along  with other parties. It belonged to the good tone that in Parliament one should not scold them etc. As we are concerned with regard democracy in this country as a given thing not to be fought for, but which is just in compliance with formal rules on elections and voting, we do not see with German clarity possible anti-democratic inclinations. We see the political right as racist with a fairly well-defined right-wing economic policy, but not as possible anti-democratic movement.

Since 2001, when Anders Fogh Rasmussen formed government on votes from the Danish People’s Party, other parties have latently  annexed DF’s xenophobia. Political practice is that if e.g. if the Danish social democracy wanted to rule, then it had to sell out of humanistic principles to get to the plate. Ethnophobia has had some practical and pragmatic rationale to begin with. Since then it has entered the mind completely, so we now have an ethnophobic majority in Denmark consisting of at least DF, the bourgeois and the Social Democrats. But in this way, the struggle for democracy and equality as a process has vaporized in this country. Democracy is neither for debate, nor as a rule of law.

This is not the case in Germany. To be living in Germany, one must be dedicated to democracy. Not as a kind of national conservative symbol, but as a basic attitude to the political system.

In Denmark, the left has neglected to cultivate and fight the parts of the right-wing failures that are noticeably developing in the country. It lies in the monitoring policy. It lies in the wear and tear of the complaint systems in the relationship between citizen and administration. It is in DF’s tendency to interfere in the courts’ activities. We should focus on what is democratic. We should discuss how we understand the principles of power sharing. And we should not regard democracy as a static, once giving state. We should instinctively react, as they have done in Germany. It is worth noting that DF does not have difficulty in cooperating with AfD and similar parties in other countries.

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