Governing party gets German parliament's seat order changed

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz delivers a speech during a meeting of the German federal parliament, Bundestag, at the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

BERLIN (AP) — The seats in Germany's parliament will have to be rearranged after lawmakers on Thursday backed the wish of one party in the new coalition government not to sit next to the far-right Alternative for Germany.

The seats in Germany's lower house, or Bundestag, are arranged in a semicircle, with the Left Party at one end and Alternative for Germany, or AfD, at the other. AfD first won seats in 2017. Before then, the pro-business Free Democrats had occupied that edge of the semicircle when they were represented in parliament.

The Free Democrats, who along with the center-left Social Democrats of Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the environmentalist Greens are part of the new government that took office last week, said earlier this year that they didn't want to sit next to AfD's lawmakers anymore.

Marco Buschmann, then a senior Free Democrat lawmaker and now Germany's justice minister, said in October that his was a party of the political center “and so we would like to sit in the center.”

The Bundestag on Thursday backed a motion under which the Free Democrats will swap places with the center-right Union bloc of former Chancellor Angela Merkel, which is now in opposition. The three governing parties and the Left Party, the smallest of the three opposition parties, backed the change.

The Free Democrats will now sit next to the Greens, one of their governing partners.

The Union had opposed the change, arguing that the Free Democrats should respect the seven-decade-old seating order in the lower house.

After every election, the rows of seats in the Bundestag are rearranged to reflect the strength of the various parties in the newly elected parliament. It wasn't immediately clear when workers will get started on the latest rearrangement.