Three years after the government crisis in Thuringia, the political scientist André Brodocz from Erfurt does not believe that the danger of politically difficult conditions in the state has been averted. “We are going to the next election under the same problematic constitutional circumstances that we had last,” Brodocz told the German Press Agency in Erfurt.

On February 5, 2020, the FDP politician Thomas Kemmerich was elected Prime Minister of Thuringia with votes from the AfD, CDU and FDP. The process triggered nationwide outrage and was often seen as a “dam bursting” against the right. After Kemmerich’s resignation, Bodo Ramelow was re-elected as head of government. Since then, Germany’s only left prime minister has led a minority government made up of leftists, SPD and Greens, which relies on four votes from the opposition in parliament.

Brodocz doesn’t think the political structure in Thuringia has been damaged after the government crisis, but it doesn’t work the way the constitution envisions it. Political design in Thuringia moves at a “snail’s pace” away from crisis decisions, said the expert. “We have more of an administration of the status quo on essential issues.” In his view, the constitution provides that a government can fall back on a stable majority in the state parliament. “This central mechanism is missing here.”

The “dam burst in Thuringia” – on a small scale, it happened again and again after the end of the crisis. Most recently, MPs from the AfD, CDU and FDP jointly passed an amendment to the Thuringian arcade law – despite warnings from the governing coalition. The Thuringian AfD around its controversial state party and parliamentary group leader Björn Höcke is classified by the state protection of the constitution as right-wing extremist, with the passing of the law, they are now helping to shape politics.

In Thuringia, a new state parliament is to be elected regularly in 2024. The most recent surveys again point to difficult majorities. Most recently, the AfD was in first place in an Insa survey with 26 percent, just ahead of the left (25 percent), followed by the CDU with 22 percent. According to the survey, the Greens and FDP must fear a re-entry into the state parliament. The dilemma of the last election would probably remain with such a result: since the CDU cannot coalition with the AfD or the Left – a decision on incompatibility prevents this – there would be no politically feasible majority for a coalition.

Brodocz said that the left, SPD, Greens and CDU should be accused of not changing the state constitution and not preparing “for the special situation”. This affects aspects such as how the country can come to a new election. The Thuringian constitution currently stipulates that a government remains in office on an interim basis until a new government has been formed. “You can regulate that differently under constitutional law,” said Brodocz. For example, it is conceivable that a government must be formed within a certain period of time. “If there is no new government, the constitution could automatically provide for new elections.”

After Kemmerich’s election, protests broke out in several German cities. The FDP politician only became head of government with the help of the AfD around their controversial Thuringian state party and parliamentary group leader Björn Höcke. The AfD state association has now been classified as right-wing extremist by the State Office for the Protection of the Constitution. At that time, Kemmerich failed with the plan to form a minority government and resigned three days after his election. However, there was no new election, Kemmerich remained in office even after his resignation without having appointed a minister. This plunged Thuringia into a deep government crisis.

An attempt to hold a new election in 2021 failed. “Interestingly, the attempts to dissolve the state parliament failed, particularly because of the CDU – not exclusively, but to a large extent,” said Brodocz, adding: “In this respect, this government was condemned to govern.” At the time, four CDU MPs refused to vote for the dissolution of parliament.

Since then there has been speculation about an earlier state election – for example together with the local elections in May 2024. And there is another concern: In the most recent survey, the FDP came to five and the Greens to six percent. What if both parties fail to re-enter the state parliament and the AfD suddenly has more than a third of the seats in parliament? “That would be a political catastrophe,” said Left Party leader Steffen Dittes recently. In any case, a constitutional change would then no longer be possible without the involvement of the AfD.

About Prof. Dr. Andre Brodocz