German state gets new governor, with far-right votes

BERLIN (AP) — A pro-business politician was elected unexpectedly as the governor of an eastern German state yesterday after a far-right party threw its votes behind him, a result that raises awkward questions for Germany’s mainstream centre-right parties.

Left-leaning parties assailed their rivals for allowing the far-right Alternative for Germany, which is particularly strong in the ex-communist east, to help put a centre-right candidate in power in Thuringia state — the first time that has happened.

Thomas Kemmerich of the Free Democrats, a party that only just secured enough support to enter the state legislature in an October election, threw his hat in the ring after left-wing incumbent Bodo Ramelow failed to secure a majority during two rounds of voting by lawmakers.

State legislators elected Kemmerich in a 45-44 vote, with one abstention. Alternative for Germany, or AfD, the second-strongest party in Thuringia, fielded a candidate of its own but then ended up supporting Kemmerich in the final vote.

The result drew withering criticism from left-leaning parties. Norbert Walter-Borjans, a leader of the Social Democrats — the junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s national government — described it as “inexcusable” and “a scandal of the first order.”