German far-right fails in bid to oust state governor

BERLIN — The far-right Alternative for Germany party failed in an attempt Friday to unseat the left-wing governor of an eastern German state, a long-shot bid that opponents denounced as political theater.

Bjoern Hoecke, one of the hardest-right figures in Alternative for Germany, or AfD, won only his party’s 22 votes in the 90-seat state legislature of Thuringia state for his effort to topple governor Bodo Ramelow and take the governor’s office himself.

The region has been in political flux, at times with national ramifications, since a 2019 election stripped Ramelow’s three-party coalition government of its majority. Ramelow is Germany’s only state governor from the Left Party, which is in part a descendant of East Germany’s ruling communists and mainstream center-right parties refuse to work with. No party wants to work with AfD.

In early 2020, Thomas Kemmerich, a lawmaker with the small pro-business Free Democrats, was elected governor with votes from the local branch of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union — and AfD, whose support had never previously decided such a vote. That prompted a national outcry from Merkel on down, and Kemmerich quickly resigned.

Ramelow returned to office, with mainstream parties planning for the state to hold an early election this September. But that plan collapsed recently because enough dissenters in those parties backed out that AfD’s support would probably have been required for the two-thirds majority needed to dissolve the state legislature. Others didn’t want to rely on its votes.

AfD said the point of Hoecke’s bid was to show center-right parties that it would be easy to get rid of Ramelow.

Lawmakers from the CDU, in which Kemmerich’s election last year caused turmoil at the national level, refused to participate in Friday’s vote. Its lawmakers said in a resolution that the legislature was being “abused as the stage for a show.”