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Andreas Kluth

A Far-Right Coup Galvanizes German Democracy

The chicanery by a populist party in Thuringia has stirred a whole nation to do the right thing.

Vox populi.

Vox populi.

Photographer: John MacDougall/AFP via Getty Images

Germans should be proud of the democracy they’ve built since 1949, as they behold the dramatic events unfolding in the otherwise sleepy regional capital of Erfurt, in the eastern state of Thuringia. Right-wing populists may grasp for power there as they do elsewhere in Europe and the world. But political culture in Germany, built upon the ruins of the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich, appears to be resolutely staring them down.

It was only yesterday, on Feb. 5, that a far-right populist party, the AfD, engineered a tactical coup in the Thuringian state parliament that could have, or so it hoped, normalized extremism in German politics. But within hours, Germany’s entire political mainstream stood up in defiance. Protesters took to the streets in Erfurt, Berlin and other cities. By today, the coup was all but undone, and the country seems more united than ever against extremism.