Dec 182015
 

Last weekend, a video of a speech that Björn Höcke had given at a New Right think tank in November was put online (gone now, but google it – there must be copies). In that speech, Höcke (originally trained as a history teacher), using a lot of jargon from biology, talked about African and European “species” of humans, who allegedly pursue different reproductive strategies. For the anoraks, that was nothing terribly new, but the general public was appalled by what boils down to pretty old-fashioned racism.
Just now, Der Tagesspiegel reports that party leader Petry tried to kick Höcke out of the party but failed to win a majority in the executive committee for such a motion. The irony is of course that Petry’s predecessor Lucke tried to get rid of Höcke a long time ago. That was before he was ousted by Petry, whose ascendancy was supposed to signal a shift to the right.

Oct 012015
 

One major asset of the pre-Petry AfD was its disconnect from the Extreme Right. But the AfD in Thuringia has always been a funny bunch, and Lucke tried (without success) to remove its leader Björn Höcke from the party.

erfurt photo

Photo by Tekniska museet

With Lucke gone and asylum applications at a record high, Höcke is now organising large-scale anti-refugee demonstrations in front of the Thuringia state parliament, which, by strange coincidence, attract sizable numbers of hooligans, neo-nazis, and NPD supporters. For more details, have a look at this article on the very useful Blick nach Rechts blog (in German).

Dec 072014
 

Various news outlets reported this afternoon that there had been talks, perhaps even agreement between the (state) CDU and the (state) AfD to prevent Ramelow from being elected Minister-President. Obviously, nothing came out of this (neither party put a candidate on the slate), but still: Wither the blessing of the leadership, Merkel has created a cordon sanitaire between CDU and the AfD. Talks with the intention of forming a coalition, or at least gaining AfD support for a CDU minority government would be an act of open rebellion.Thuringia photoPhoto by Tjflex2

Dec 072014
 

On Friday, the state parliament at Erfurt voted in Bodo Ramelow as Minister-President of Thuringia. He is the first member of the Left party to hold such an office, backed by the first ‘red-red-green’ (Left/SPD/Greens) coalition ever. 25 years after the fall of the wall, that is still a highly controversial constellation. Ramelow has been trying to diffuse the issue for months, and kicked off his reign with an apology to the victims of the former socialist state party SED, the pre-predecessor of the Left. His election also marks the end of a 24-year-spell during which the state’s Christian Democrats held the top executive job in this state.

The real significance, of course, lies beyond the woods of Thuringia. Taking over the office of the Minister-President is perhaps the most important step in the long game of normalising the Left that began in the mid-1990s, when the PDS (the predecessor of the Left) tolerated a red-green minority government in Saxony-Anhalt. Normalising red-red-green coalitions, on the other hand, is even trickier business. The Greens merged in the 1990s with what remained of  the East German dissident movement, and this legacy makes any co-operation with the heirs of the former oppressors highly unpleasant. The SPD, on the other hand, has two swallow the fact that at least in Thuringia, they are no longer the strongest force within the left camp. Moreover, the SED was the result of a forced merger between the East German SPD and the east German communist partner, and the final ingredient in today’s Left was a group of SPD dissidents who broke away from the SPD ten years ago. That is a lot of shared history overshadowing the present.

From the SPD’s point of view, however, there is clearly a ray of sunshine to this story: The SPD is now part of 14 (out of 16) state governments and has 9 Minister-Presidents amongst their number, four more than the Christian Democrats. That certainly makes governing as Merkel’s junior partner in Berlin a little more bearable.

bodo ramelow photoPhoto by DIE LINKE. Thüringen