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German leftist leader throws flowers at feet of liberal politician who worked with far-right

A German leftist leader protested against liberal cooperation with the far-right on Wednesday by throwing a bunch of flowers at the feet of one of the collaborators. 

Susanne Hennig-Wellsow nonchalantly dropped the congratulatory bouquet in front of nervous liberal Thomas Kemmerich, before turning and walking away without shaking his hand.

Mr Kemmerich, who had just been elected regional leader of the state of Thuringia with the votes of the far-right AfD, was left anxiously rubbing his hands together as she departed.

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The liberal FDP and conservative CDU had just relied on the AfD's votes to oust the incumbent leftist administration – a first in German politics, where cooperation with the far-right is usually considered off-limits.

The action promoted anger across the country and even internationally, with hundreds spontaneously showing up at the seat of regional government to protest the move. 

Online, the hashtag #FCKAFDP trended in Germany – a portmanteau of the word "f***" and the names of the liberal and far-right parties combined into one.

Ms Hennig-Wellsow, leader of the Left party in the state who dropped the bouquet at the victor's feet, told German media that Wednesday’s events had been “long in the making” and that the cooperation between liberals had been planned in advance.

In contrast to the left-winger's approach, Mr Kemmerich was warmly thanked in the chamber by regional AfD leader Björn Höcke, who was pictured warmly shaking the hands of his new ally. 

Mr Höcke is one of the most right-wing senior figures in the AfD. He has marched with neo-Nazis and calls Germany's approach to commemorating of the Holocaust "moronic". In September last year a court in the state ruled that Mr Höcke could be legally termed a “fascist”, stating that the designation “rests on verifiable fact”.

Astonishingly, Mr Kemmerich's liberal party won just five per cent of the vote in the previous elections, clearing the electoral threshold for representation by less than 100 votes. It now looks set to find itself leading the government.

The new state leadership narrowly ousted leftist incumbent state premier Bodo Ramelow, who was backed by the social democrats, the Greens and his own Left party. 

Bjoern Hoecke, Alternative for Germany (AfD) party leader congratulates Free Democratic Party (FDP) candidate Thomas Kemmerich after backing him to lead the Thuringian state government (REUTERS)

Mr Ramelow's alliance only gathered 44 out of 90 votes in the eastern German state's parliament, while the FDP's managed 45 seats with the backing of the far-right. 

German media reports that the "taboo-breaking" event is the first time in the history of the federal republic that a minister-president has been elected with the votes of the AfD.

The leftist incumbent Mr Ramelow had been widely expected to return to office at the head of a minority administration, after his party won an increased vote share at elections at the end of last year. The parties in his left-of-centre coalition had already picked ministers for their government.

Jörg Meuthen, AfD's federal party chief celebrated the result, tweeting: "The first piece of the political turn in Germany: victory of the civic-minded majority! Congratulations to Thuringia!"

The local CDU branch has said that despite working with the AfD to install the new minister-president, they did not want to enter a formal coalition with the party.

"We decided to support the civic majority's candidate," said CDU local party leader Mike Mohring following the election. "It is crucial that Kemmerich makes it clear that there is no coalition with the AfD."

Germany's foreign minister Heiko Maas, from the centre-left SPD, however described the outcome of the election as "completely irresponsible". 

"Against the AfD, all democrats have to stand together – if you don't understand that, you haven't learned anything from our history," Mr Maas tweeted.

Left party chair Bernd Riexinger said the decision was "a taboo-breaker that will have far-reaching consequences", adding that "the FDP and CDU have to explain this now".

Thuringia held state elections in October. The Left party came top by a large margin, securing 31 per cent of the vote, up from 28 per cent in 2014. 

The AfD came second with 23.4 per cent, up from 10.6 per cent in the previous. The conservative CDU came third with 21.7 per cent, while the centre-left SPD came fourth with 8.2 per cent. 

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