The liberal German politician installed as a regional governor with the support of the far-right has announced his resignation after just 24 hours in office, following intense criticism.
Angela Merkel on Thursday afternoon had said the installation of Thomas Kemmerich with the support of the AfD party was “unforgivable” and had called on the decision to be reversed.
Shortly after the chancellor’s intervention, the governor’s parliamentary group said in a statement that “Thomas Kemmerich wants to remove the stain of the AfD support from the office of minister-president”.
Speaking to the German press outside the Thuringian state chancellery, Mr Kemmerich said he wanted to call fresh elections.
“Together with my colleagues, I decided to request the dissolution of the state parliament. We want to bring about new elections in order to remove the blemish of the AfD support from the office of minister-president,” he said.
“Democrats need democratic majorities that obviously cannot be established in this parliament. There was no cooperation with the AfD, there is no such cooperation and will not exist.”
Mr Kemmerich said the AfD had “tried to damage democracy with a perfidious trick” by voting him into office. His opponents however said the move to use him to oust the left-wing incumbent administration had been planned in advance.
The new governor was installed with the votes of his own FDP, the conservative CDU, and the far-right AfD – a first in German politics, where cooperation with the far-right is usually considered off-limits.
The FDP governor ousted leftist incumbent state premier Bodo Ramelow, who was backed by the social democrats, the Greens and his own Left party.
The action promoted anger across the country and even internationally, with hundreds spontaneously showing up at the seat of regional government to protest the move.
Online, the hashtag #FCKAFDP trended in Germany – a portmanteau of the word “f***” and the names of the liberal and far-right parties combined into one.
Astonishingly, Mr Kemmerich’s liberal party won just five per cent of the vote in the previous elections, clearing the electoral threshold for representation by less than 100 votes. It is not certain that they will return to parliament if fresh elections are help.
Leftist incumbent Mr Ramelow’s alliance only gathered 44 out of 90 votes in the eastern German state’s parliament, while the FDP’s managed 45 seats with the backing of the far-right.
German media reports that the “taboo-breaking” event is the first time in the history of the federal republic that a minister-president has been elected with the votes of the AfD.
Mr Ramelow had been widely expected to return to office at the head of a minority administration, after his party won an increased vote share at elections at the end of last year. The parties in his left-of-centre coalition had already picked ministers for their government.
Jörg Meuthen, AfD’s federal party chief celebrated the result, tweeting: “The first piece of the political turn in Germany: victory of the civic-minded majority! Congratulations to Thuringia!”
Thuringia held state elections in October. The Left party came top by a large margin, securing 31 per cent of the vote, up from 28 per cent in 2014.
The AfD came second with 23.4 per cent, up from 10.6 per cent in the previous. The conservative CDU came third with 21.7 per cent, while the centre-left SPD came fourth with 8.2 per cent.