The convention by which Germany’s far right is kept far from government regardless of how many parliamentary seats it wins was dealt another blow on Thursday when its votes were used to defeat a regional government in a crucial budget bill.
The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has been leading in polls in parts of eastern Germany for months, benefiting from dismay at rising prices and uncertain economic prospects, but a so-called “firewall” of all other parties joining together has kept it far from power.
Thursday’s vote in Thuringia’s parliament, when the far right, the conservative Christian Democrats and the pro-business Free Democrats combined to push through a tax cut against the wishes of the left-wing coalition, is the latest sign of change.
Last month, the Thuringian district of Sonneberg elected Germany’s first ever AfD district administrator, while in the state of Saxony-Anhalt the AfD’s administrator candidate came first and will now face off against the second-placed candidate in a run-off.
But it is in the rolling hillsides of thickly forested Thuringia that the AfD’s success rings the most alarm bells: anti-terror authorities there are formally monitoring the regional organisation, which they deem extremist.
But the party’s polling performance, which most recently saw the AfD becoming the most popular party in the state of Brandenburg that surrounds Berlin, leaves many doubting that the cordon sanitaire can last.