By Christina Storz, dpa
Berlin (dpa) – The head of Germany’s pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) admitted on Sunday that mistakes had been made in the shock election of a state premier in Thuringia from his party with the help of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).
“I underestimated the unscrupulousness of the AfD in dealing with the highest state offices,” Christian Lindner told the Bild newspaper.
He said that he could not understand the AfD’s decision to put forward a candidate and then not vote for them in order to hurt the FDP and the ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
He said that if he had known the AfD’s plans, he would have advised the FDP’s candidate, Thomas Kemmerich, not to run.
Kemmerich beat incumbent Bodo Ramelow, of The Left party, to become state premier in Thuringia on Wednesday with the support of lawmakers from German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU and the AfD.
Working with the AfD – an anti-immigrant party accused of harbouring Nazi sympathizers and fuelling anti-Semitism – has been a red line for German establishment parties. News that the FDP, CDU and AfD had supported the same candidate in the small central state led thousands to hold protests in cities across Germany.
Kemmerich officially left his post on Saturday due to the escalating political crisis.
Germany’s coalition parties called for voters in Thuringia to return to the polls after a crisis meeting of coalition party leaders in Berlin on Saturday.
On Saturday, AfD co-leader Alexander Gauland told dpa that his party would throw its support behind Ramelow in new elections, just to ensure he would not be able to accept the position of state premier either.
“This is the behaviour of those who despise democracy,” Ramelow responded in a tweet.
Sources confirmed to dpa on Sunday that Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke to Ramelow on the phone on the fringes of the Berlin meeting.
Merkel made it very clear that the CDU would not support The Left, the sources said, refuting earlier media reports that her party would be prepared to offer its backing to Ramelow.
Ramelow showed concern during the call about the AfD threatening to vote for him, the sources said.
The FDP’s national parliamentary group is set to meet in Berlin on Sunday. Lindner is expected to give a public statement before the meeting, possibly on the FDP’s role in the Thuringia government crisis.