A bitter fight has erupted in Germany’s conservative CDU party over whether they should consider working with the far-right Alternative for Germany in the eastern state of Thuringia.
Angela Merkel’s party face an invidious choice in Thuringia after recent elections made the building of a stable state government next to impossible.
Ms Merkel’s CDU only managed to muster 22 percent of the vote, as voters flocked from the centre ground towards parties with links to darker chapters in German history.
Winners in the state poll were Die Linke, a party set up by apparatchiks of the communist East German regime. Meanwhile the nationalist AfD beat the CDU into third place.
With the vote split between the far-Left and far-Right, CDU politicians in Thuringia have publicly called for the party to start talks with both fringe parties to try and find a workable government.
But the CDU leadership in Berlin immediately shut down talk of a deal with the AfD on Tuesday, describing the suggestion as “crazy.”
Party secretary general Paul Ziemiak told broadcaster ARD that cooperation with the AfD was “a taboo” that cannot be broken.
“We are not talking about tactical games or parliamentary majorities. This is an issue that affects the CDU’s core values,” said Mr Ziemiak.
While the AfD are controversial nationwide, their Thuringian branch are particularly renowned for extremism. State leader Björn Höcke heads a radical faction inside the party called der Flügel which is under observation by domestic intelligence services over its anti-Islam agenda.
Mr Höcke, a former school teacher from the west of the country, is believed to have written regular columns for a neo-Nazi magazine under a pseudonym.
On Wednesday, Mr Höcke wrote a letter to the CDU offering an informal cooperation which would involve his party supporting a minority government made up of the CDU and the pro-business Free Democrats.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, the German government gave itself the green light to continue its work for the next two years.
Ms Merkel’s government of CDU and Social Democrats had decided to take stock in a “half-time report” after two years to decide whether enough had been achieved to make further coalition worthwhile.
The 80-page report found that the government had already achieved two thirds of the goals set out in the coalition agreement signed in early 2018.
“This shows we are capable of working together and we are willing to work together,” Ms Merkel said of the country’s fragile and unpopular coalition.