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Germany's Left-Wing Governor Returns After Month of Turmoil

New elected state governor of the German state Thuringia Bodo Ramelow delivers a speech after the governor elections at the state parliament in Erfurt, Germany, March 4, 2020.

A left-wing governor returned to office in the eastern German state of Thuringia on Wednesday, a month after state lawmakers voted him out of the job with far-right support and shook up Germany's politics at the national level.

Bodo Ramelow of the Left Party won 42 votes in the 90-seat state legislature, enough to be elected by a simple majority. No candidate stood against him in the decisive vote, although 20 lawmakers abstained and 23 voted against him.

In early February, the Thuringia legislature unexpectedly elected center-right lawmaker Thomas Kemmerich as governor. Kemmerich received enough votes only because the far-right Alternative for Germany, or AfD, abandoned the little-known candidate it had fielded to throw its support behind him.

Kemmerich also won the votes of lawmakers from his party and from Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union. His election was the first time AfD's support decided such a vote.

Regional CDU lawmakers ignored the wishes of their national leadership to back Kemmerich, a member of the small pro-business Free Democrats, at the risk of making common cause with AfD.

The fallout was dramatic. National CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who had struggled to impose her authority on the party after taking over from Merkel in late 2018, announced the following week that she wouldn't run to be Germany's next chancellor and also would step down as party leader. Her successor is to be chosen in late April.

The Thuringia governor vote followed a state election in October that stripped Ramelow's left-wing coalition of its majority. In a first for Germany, there was no majority in the state legislature for any alliance without either AfD or Ramelow's Left Party.

The CDU's policy is not to cooperate with either party, in the latter case because it is descended from East Germany's ruling communists, but that put it in a very difficult position in Thuringia. Ramelow is moderate and popular. AfD's local leader, Bjoern Hoecke, is his party's best-known far-right firebrand.

Kemmerich announced his resignation three days after he was elected and never formed a Cabinet, though he remained in office on a caretaker basis.