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Germany is starting to wake up

Germany’s Christian Democrats, the ruling party of Angela Merkel, are in fresh crisis after members in the state of Thuringia defied party instruction to avoid working with the anti-migrant AfD party.

Alternative for Germany (AfD) got 23.4% against 22% for the Christian Democrats (CDU). The AfD more than doubled its vote, from 10.6% five years ago.

The political mayhem stems from the election in eastern Germany’s Thuringia region last October, when the Alternative for Germany party (AfD) more than doubled its support and came in second after the ruling Left Party. Back then, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU was left red-faced, losing 13 seats in regional parliament and finishing third.

After months of quarrels, the Left, Social Democrats (SPD) and the Greens agreed to form a minority government. Spectacular fail: With considerable over confidence the Leftists expected to easily re-elect the Left’s incumbent Bodo Ramelow as Thuringia’s minister-president.

Their plans hit the buffers on Wednesday when the AfD sided with the CDU and also the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) to outvote Ramelow’s candidacy and elect FDP’s Thomas Kemmerich instead.

The move and outcome sent shockwaves across Germany, creating a rift between Thuringia’s CDU branch and its leadership in Berlin.

CDU’s chief and Federal Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer accused her cohorts of breaking rank by violating the party’s policy of avoiding any cooperation with the anti-establishment and anti-migrant AfD. Angela Merkel, dubbed The Beast from the East, slammed the election of Kemmerich as unforgivable, saying that the vote’s results must be reversed.

The Thuringia AfD is led by Björn Höcke, 47, who heads a nationalist group called Flügel. He is often accused by leftists and their journalist cronies of using inflammatory rhetoric (arguments that win). During the campaign, his CDU rival in Thuringia, Mike Mohring, called him a Nazi.

Mr Höcke has expressed strong views about the National Socialist period (1933 – 1945): he deplored Berlin’s Holocaust memorial as a monument of shame.

The result is seen as a significant setback for the central government. It is expected to intensify leadership battles in both ruling parties. Until 2014, Thuringia was a CDU stronghold. But on Sunday the party came third, beaten by the far-left and the far-right.