After 25 hours in office, the now-former Minister-President of Thuringia, liberal Free Democratic party candidate Thomas Kemmerich was forced to resign as his party sought to shake off the “stigma” linked to being supported by the far-right party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). The political crisis has reached Brussels, causing an uproar among Renew MEPs. EURACTIV France reports.
The turmoil is particularly acute within the Renew group, which formed as a result of ALDE centrists’ rapprochement with French President Emmanuel Macron’s ‘En Marche’ movement in France. Germany’s FDP were the first to support the French president.
They stood by Macron’s side during his campaign for the French presidential elections, and then later when he proposed to form the European party group, Renew. Currently, 5 FDP MEPs are part of the Renew group.
The fact that a member of the group can accept support from the extreme right, however, does not sit well with the values championed by Macron’s La Republique en Marche (LREM) or ALDE. And this was quickly made clear by the Renew group.
— Guy Verhofstadt (@guyverhofstadt) February 5, 2020
Within the French Renew delegation, MEP Stéphane Séjourné quickly called for new elections to prevent this situation from happening again. This is also the position of several FDP MEPs from the Renew group, as well as Chancellor Angela Merkel. Meanwhile, Belgian liberal Guy Verhofstadt, a former leader of the ALDE group, described the vote as “unacceptable” and “not in my name”.
Il y a des lignes rouges qu’on ne franchit pas. Aucune alliance avec l’extrême-droite n’est possible. D’accord avec mes collègues du #FDP au Parlement européen et au Bundestag : la démission de #Kemmerich et de nouvelles élections sont la solution #Thueringen pic.twitter.com/zpluMV9RfG
— Stephane Sejourne (@steph_sejourne) February 5, 2020
Thomas Kemmerich was not Thuringia’s minister-president region for very long. Chosen by a right-wing alliance by a narrow 45 to 44 margin in a secret vote after collecting only 5% of the votes, his democratic legitimacy was immediately under question and he threw in the towel on Thursday afternoon, precisely 25 hours after he was elected.
“This is an unforgivable act” and “a bad day for democracy”, the German Chancellor had judged after the election during a visit to Pretoria in South Africa, before calling for new elections.
Searching for its identity
The episode nevertheless shows that the Renew group is still searching for its identity. “Usually we are quite close to them on social issues, but not so much on economic issues,” a Renew source in the European Parliament acknowledged.
If a division arises on this question of values, which is fundamental to the centrist group, the FDP’s membership of Renew, which is the party “with which there are the most nuances” according to this source, might be in the hot seat.
Among the tense topics of discussion, the FDP is very much on the side of financial and monetary discipline, like Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democrats.
(Edited by Benjamin Fox)