In Brief: Left party politician Bodo Ramelow elected Thuringia state premier in new vote

In his acceptance speech, Bodo Ramelow, who previously held the premier post for six years, refused to shake the hand of his challenger, Björn Höcke, who heads the local branch of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. Ramelow said he’d rather be rude than extend the courtesy to a man who tramples on democracy.

Photo (c) Thueringia Landtag - https://www.thueringer-landtag.de/service/presse/pressefotos/

By Sylvia Cunningham and Nikki Motson

Freshly elected as Thuringia’s new premier after three rounds of voting, Bodo Ramelow from the Left Party delivered fiery remarks on the parliamentary floor Wednesday afternoon.

In his acceptance speech, Ramelow, who previously held the post for six years, said he refused to shake the hand of Björn Höcke, the controversial local leader of the far-right, Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. Höcke was his opponent in the first two rounds of voting yesterday.

Ramelow said some might see it as rude manners, but he would only shake the AfD faction leader’s hand when Höcke “defended democracy” instead of “trampling” on it.

Thuringia has been in the national spotlight since last month when a pro-business FDP politician was elected as premier with help from the AfD and Merkel’s CDU party.

Ramelow ultimately won yesterday’s election with a plurality rather than a majority of votes.

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With more than 260 cases of coronavirus reported in Germany, health minister Jens Spahn is now calling it a worldwide pandemic. But he’s also urging people here to stay calm.

Addressing the Bundestag on Wednesday, Spahn said the consequences brought on by fear can sometimes be greater than the consequences from the virus itself.

The health minister said images from China were unsettling for many people in Germany, and caused some to stock up on purchases of non-perishable foods and other supplies, such as face masks. The “Hamsterkäufe” led to empty supermarket shelves in many places.

Medical experts do not recommend face masks as a preventative measure for healthy individuals. They recommend washing hands for at least 20 seconds and keeping a safe distance from people who are coughing or sneezing.

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A new German teacher union study finds every fourth daycare (“Kita”) in Germany was understaffed more than 40 percent of the time last year.

The Association for Education and Training, which conducted the study, represents about 164,000 teachers across Germany.

For two years now, children in Berlin have had the right to part-time daycare from the age of 1, but critics say a shortage of spots has often led to waiting times in excess of six months.

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