Could Merkel’s Christian Democrats really work with the far-right AfD?

Mainstream parties have ruled out working with the far-right AfD. But now CDU officials in Thuringia say talks with the anti-immigration party shouldn't be ruled out. Is the tide turning?

Could Merkel’s Christian Democrats really work with the far-right AfD?
The CDU's Mike Mohring (front) and the AfD's Björn Höcke on the Thuringia election night. Photo: DPA

Just over a week after the election in the eastern German state of Thuringia last week, politicians in the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) have called for their party to be willing to talk with the anti-establishment Alternative for Germany. 

CDU bosses in Thuringia previously rejected the idea of coalition talks with the AfD. 

But on Monday an open letter signed by 17 local CDU officials and reported on by the Ostthüringer Zeitung, urges the party to start “open-ended talks” with the AfD.  They consider it unthinkable that “almost a quarter of the voters” in Thuringia “should remain outside the talks”.

It echoes calls last week from Michael Heym, the deputy head of the Thuringian CDU faction, who had suggested the concept of a coalition between the CDU, the AfD and the pro-business Free Democrats.

“You don't do democracy a favour by alienating a quarter of the electorate,” Heym said after last week's election.

According to the newspaper, the appeal by the CDU officials does not explicitly mention the AfD. However, it suggests that the CDU should be open to talks with the party known for its anti-immigration views, as well as “all democratically elected parties” including the far-left Die Linke, who won the election.

A decision for or against working with a party should only be made after open-ended discussions, the letter said. Among the signatories is CDU state parliament member Jörg Kellner.

READ ALSO: What does the far-right's success in Thuringia mean for Germany?


The CDU, led by Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and with Angela Merkel as Chancellor, suffered a humiliating result in the election after it was pushed into third place by the AfD.

The AfD surged into second place with 23.4 percent, more than doubling its share of the vote since the last state election in 2014, while the CDU tumbled down to 21.8 percent, from 33.5 percent in 2014. 

It would be extremely controversial for the CDU to cooperate with the AfD and has been previously ruled out at the federal level.

Furthermore, the Thuringia AfD is led by Björn Höcke, who heads a stridently nationalist group called Flügel (the Wing) and has been accused of inflammatory rhetoric. During the campaign, his CDU rival in Thuringia, Mike Mohring, called him a “Nazi”.

However, the CDU is struggling to hold on to disillusioned voters, especially after Merkel’s decision to keep the borders open in 2015 during the height of the refugee crisis. This action moved the party more to the centre.

There's also another debate on the direction of the CDU in Thuringia which would also be a controversial move.

The Left (Die Linke), led by state premier Bodo Ramelow, won the election, scooping 31 percent of the vote. The party wants to lead a coalition, as it had done previously, but it’s proving extremely difficult to find a majority.

The CDU previously ruled out working with the Left, but Thuringia CDU leader Mohring said he was open to talks with the party's local leader Ramelow.

Political Scientist Werner Patzelt previously told The Local if the centre-right CDU worked with the far-left Die Linke party, it would be the “kiss of death” for the CDU.

Meanwhile, SPD Secretary General Lars Klingbeil raised concerns over the letter calling for talks with the AfD.

He warned that the “firewall to the right” in the CDU was “getting more and more cracks”. He called on CDU party leader Kramp-Karrenbauer to intervene.

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the AfD surge in regional German elections

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Germany’s centre-right CDU to elect new leadership by end of the year

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU party will elect its new leadership by the year's end, general secretary Paul Ziemiak said Monday, detailing plans for a clean slate after a disastrous election that the party lost to the Social Democrats.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and CDU leader Armin Laschet on the election campaign trail in Aachen before the election.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and CDU leader Armin Laschet on the election campaign trail in Aachen before the election. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Federico Gambarini

In power for 16 years under Merkel, the Christian Democratic Union is grappling with its deepest crisis in decades after turning in a historic low score in September’s election.

Its leader Armin Laschet last week signalled his readiness to step aside, setting the ball rolling for renewal at the top.

READ ALSO: Laschet signals he’s ready to step down as CDU leader

Ziemiak said a date for the congress to determine the new makeup of the party’s top brass as well as how rank and file members can participate in the leadership selection process will be announced on November 2nd.

But the party’s leaders “today agreed unanimously that we will elect a completely new executive board,” he said, adding that in terms of the calendar, the “window for this is year’s end”.

Bild daily had reported that the party has made a tentative booking for December 6th-13th in Dresden for its possible congress.

READ ALSO: Germany edges a step closer to a government led by Social Democrats

Laschet, who is state premier of Germany’s most populous region North Rhine-Westphalia, was elected head of the CDU in January.

For some time, he was the clear favourite to succeed Merkel, who is bowing out of politics after running four consecutive coalitions.

But his party’s ratings began to slide as he committed a series of gaffes, including being caught on camera laughing in the background during a solemn tribute to flood victims.

With the CDU’s ratings plunging, Merkel tried to boost Laschet’s campaign with joint appearances, but was unable to help the conservatives pull off a win on election day.