Ger­man gov­er­nor sud­denly re­signs

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - NEWS - By Geir Moulson

BERLIN >> A Ger­man state gov­er­nor in­stalled with the help of a far-right party said Satur­day he is re­sign­ing with im­me­di­ate ef­fect, three days af­ter his elec­tion shook the coun­try’s pol­i­tics and stoked new ten­sions in Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel’s gov­ern­ment.

Thomas Kem­merich’s an­nounce­ment came as lead­ers of Merkel’s gov­ern­ing coali­tion, meet­ing in Berlin to dis­cuss the fall­out, de­manded that he go and the leg­is­la­ture of the east­ern state of Thuringia “promptly” choose a suc­ces­sor. They called for that to be fol­lowed quickly by a new re­gional elec­tion.

Pro-busi­ness politi­cian Kem­merich’s elec­tion was only pos­si­ble be­cause the far-right Al­ter­na­tive for Ger­many, or AfD, sup­ported him in a vote in the state leg­is­la­ture — as did the re­gional branch of Merkel’s Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union, against the wishes of its na­tional lead­er­ship.

Kem­merich’s ac­cep­tance of AfD’s votes ap­palled left-lean­ing par­ties and many in his own cen­ter-right camp. Merkel called his elec­tion “in­ex­cus­able.” The politi­cian from the small Free Democrats — a party that is in op­po­si­tion na­tion­ally but it is a tra­di­tional ally of Merkel’s CDU — an­nounced a day af­ter he was elected that he planned to step down, though he left un­clear when.

That wasn’t enough for many, in­clud­ing the cen­ter-left So­cial Democrats, the ju­nior part­ners in Merkel’s gov­ern­ing coali­tion. The Thuringia mess was the lat­est in a suc­ces­sion of events that have pe­ri­od­i­cally cast doubt on whether the gov­ern­ment will last un­til the end of its term in late 2021.

Kem­merich said in a state­ment Satur­day that he was re­sign­ing “with im­me­di­ate ef­fect” and pay­ing back to the state all wages earned as a re­sult of his elec­tion. It wasn’t im­me­di­ately clear when ex­actly a suc­ces­sor might be elected.

That came as lead­ers of Merkel’s coali­tion re­leased a state­ment de­mand­ing that he leave and a re­place­ment be elected by state law­mak­ers. They added that, above and be­yond that, “the coali­tion part­ners are con­vinced that for rea­sons of po­lit­i­cal le­git­i­macy ... new elec­tions are nec­es­sary in Thuringia soon.”

Ear­lier Satur­day, Merkel fired a fed­eral of­fi­cial whose de­par­ture the So­cial Democrats had sought over the fi­asco, an­other move to­ward de­fus­ing ten­sions.

Chris­tian Hirte, a mem­ber of Merkel’s CDU who was the gov­ern­ment’s com­mis­sioner for the for­merly com­mu­nist east and a deputy econ­omy min­is­ter, tweeted that he re­signed af­ter Merkel told him he could no longer do the job. Merkel’s spokesman, St­ef­fen Seib­ert, con­firmed his dis­missal.

MARTIN SCHUTT — DPA VIA AP

Thuringian state gov­er­nor Thomas Kem­merich of the Free Democrats party briefs the me­dia dur­ing a news con­fer­ence in Er­furt, Ger­many, Thurs­day.

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