Corona crisis: Thuringia's government under stress test

In Germany hardly anyone talks about Thomas Kemmerich. He no longer rules in Thuringia, the FDP is now in opposition again. Outside the small country, the fact that the dramatic months behind the Free State, which shook the entire republic, that the FDP and CDU together with the AfD chose precisely Thomas Kemmerich as head of government has almost been forgotten.

The corona crisis made it possible: just a week before the fight against the virus brought the country to a standstill, the new government was lifted into office in Thuringia. The left-wing Prime Minister Bodo Ramelow with his former partners SPD and Greens is now at the top. Also on board without sitting on the government bench: the crisis-ridden Thuringian CDU.

With the help of an agreed stability mechanism, the Christian Democrats have a say – and immediately assured Red-Red-Green that they are not working against the government with the majority of the FDP and AfD. There will be new elections next year, at least that is the plan.

It is a compromise that no one really knew if it worked. Now, in the corona crisis, the Erfurt construct is experiencing an epochal stress test. Thuringia is relatively weakly affected by the virus in terms of the number of infected people, but the measures also have a full impact here. As soon as the ministers could even imagine themselves in their houses, pioneering decisions were made.

Ramelow, initially against tough measures in the crisis, admitted to underestimating the virus. In an MDR interview, the head of state said that he got up in the morning on March 12 and believed that the schools could remain open. A day later, he ordered the closure.

"Cockfight" between Ramelow and Tiefensee In the new government it has been grinding ever since. For example, the CDU wanted the employees of the Federal Employment Agency to be included on the list of systemically relevant professions so that they too could send their children to emergency care. This should ensure that the necessary help is running smoothly. Minister of Economics Wolfgang Tiefensee (SPD) agreed to the demand. However, the responsible minister of education, Helmut Holter (left), declined what caused anger, and there was wrangling between the SPD and the left in the crisis team, whether this should be located in the Interior Ministry with Georg Maier (SPD), as is usually the case, or with the left in the State Chancellery. Tiefensee and Ramelow are competing, who is the better crisis manager will be reported from the meetings. "There is a cockfight that has not yet been decided," said one participant in the rounds.

Parliament is under pressure, even if it is not currently in session. The next state parliament session is not to take place until May. But the list of points that Parliament should decide when it meets again is already long: the local regulations are to be changed to clarify the powers that mayors and city councils have in the crisis. The huge emergency aid package for Thuringia must go through Parliament In addition, further assistance is planned for the municipalities, which are currently experiencing immense revenue shortfalls. Red, red and green cannot ignore the CDU on financial matters. A supplementary budget could possibly lead to a postponement of the election in the coming year, which the SPD in particular wants to prevent.

"We are in constant discussion with the CDU," left-wing faction leader Susanne Hennig-Wellsow told SPIEGEL. "It's going. We find each other as we agreed." The newly elected CDU parliamentary group leader Mario Voigt also feels well treated by the government: "We are adequately informed and help to solve problems directly thanks to our proximity to the many direct mandates." Greens head of state Ann-Sophie Bohm-Eisenbrandt is especially relieved, That the government was formed in good time: "The executive is just as important as never. A government under Kemmerich could have ended in a catastrophe." When the shock is over, the conflicts come. This is also the view of political scientist Benjamin Höhne from the Institute for Research on Parliamentarianism . After all, FDP man Kemmerich had no ministers, and the state secretaries who were in charge of the ministries at the time are not intended for political decisions. Nevertheless, Höhne points out that a minority government "always means a certain instability". Even if red-red-green rules through in the hour of the crisis: When the shock is over, the question will be how to distribute the burdens. "Then the party colors will become more visible again," says Höhne. "A minority government is particularly under pressure." At least one thing the Thuringians are spared: So far, no state politician has failed due to the virus. Only one MP had to go to quarantine twice. The CDU parliamentarian Volker Emde was suspected of virus because he had gone skiing in northern Italy. If his test had been positive, the election of the prime minister should have been canceled on March 4, after which Emde went to winter sports again. The second time to Austria, shortly before the country was declared a risk area. Emde was again in quarantine for two weeks. "Now I'm going to stay at home in Thuringia," he says on the phone.
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