Kemmerich narrowly defeated a left-wing incumbent after the far-right Alternative for Germany, or AfD, voted for him instead of its own candidate. Left-leaning parties and many from the centre-right said that accepting votes from AfD, whether solicited or not, broke a taboo and was unacceptable. All mainstream parties have vowed not to work with AfD.
Kemmerich initially held out against mounting pressure to resign, insisting that he had not made any deal with AfD and would not do so. But with no prospect of forming a viable state government, he pulled the plug after a little more than 24 hours.
While insisting he hadn’t made mistakes, he said his party would seek the dissolution of the state legislature.
“With this, we want to bring about new elections in order to clear the stain of support by AfD from the office of governor,” he said.
“Democrats need democratic majorities,” he added.
He added that his “resignation is inevitable,” though he didn’t specify when.
Thuringia’s local politics have been in a state of uncertainty ever since an inconclusive election in October and the party may struggle in a new election. The last election stripped the left-wing coalition of its majority.
“Thomas Kemmerich’s decision is right, but even after 24 hours long overdue,” the CDU’s general secretary, Paul Ziemiak, said in Berlin.
“Any impression that Nazis such as [regional leader Bjoern] Hoecke or others in AfD could have an influence on government jobs or even government policy in the future damages our whole country.”
Merkel said during a visit to South Africa the outcome had been “foreseeable” – “so one has to say that this event is inexcusable, and the result must be reversed.”