Thomas Kemmerich, the premier of the state of Thuringia resigned on Thursday after a country-wide outcry over the fact that he was elected through the support of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party on Wednesday.
Kemmerich said today in Erfurt that his resignation was “unavoidable” and he wanted to clear the way for a fresh election.
"Yesterday, the AfD tried a perfidious trick to damage democracy,” he said. "Democrats need democratic majorities. Obviously they cannot be created in this parliament."
Thousands of demonstrators gathered in the eastern state of Thuringia and various other places across the country on Thursday to protest against the alliance between Germany’s ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party and the AfD, who teamed up to back Free Democrat candidate Kemmerich for the role.
Politicians from Germany’s main parties, including Merkel’s junior coalition partner the Social Democrats, expressed their outrage that the AfD was playing the role of “kingmaker” and concerns that Kemmerich would be beholden to them.
Politicians and the German media described the election as a “black day” for democracy, and a national “shame.”
Earlier on Thursday, chancellor Angela Merkel said her party cooperating with the AfD in Thuringia was “unforgivable” and called for the vote to be reversed.
The AfD made huge gains in the wake of the refugee influx in 2016, entering the German parliament for the first time after the general election in 2017. Björn Höcke, party head in the state of Thuringia, is one of AfD’s most extremist leaders. He has been compared with Adolf Hitler over his Nazi-like rhetoric and has repeatedly called for an end to Germany’s commitment to atoning for the atrocities of the Nazi era.
The rise of the right-wing extremism and anti-semitism in the past few years has provoked major concerns in Germany. In October last year, a German gunman attacked a synagogue with worshippers inside, and shot two pedestrians outside after failing to gain entry into the building.