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Germany

Alternative Left Parties Sign Cooperation Agreement

Germany's Left Party on Saturday endorsed formalizing the electoral alliance of former communists and disgruntled social democrats opposing the ruling left-right coalition.

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Oskar Lafontaine, faction leader of the Left Party, called for unity

Members of the former communist East German Democratic Socialists (PDS), now called the Left Party, voted by a large majority for a "cooperation agreement" with Electoral Alternative for Labor and Social Justice (WASG) that propelled them into fourth place in the German parliament.

The aim is to build a new opposition party by mid-2007, with the cooperation agreement preventing the two groups running against each other in local and regional polls.

The party congress was expected to approve on Sunday changes to its statutes to allow WASG members to join.

Election surprise a solid grounding to build on

Bildgalerie Nach den Wahlen Gysi und Lafontaine

Gregor Gysi and Oskar Lafontaine even surprised themselves at the election.

The PDS changed its name to the Left Party and struck an alliance with the WASG in July, and caused a surprise by taking 8.7 percent of the vote and 54 seats in the September elections, making it the fourth largest party in the Bundestag.

"The PDS, the WASG and the new party will contribute to creating a democratic alternative to oppose the damage caused by neoliberalism to social cohesion," Left Party leader Lothar Bisky told the 400 congress delegates.

"We must and will create a common leftist social party, which all Germany needs," added the head of the party's parliamentary group, Gregor Gysi.

The elections failed to give a clear majority to the outgoing ruling Social Democrats or the main opposition Christian Democrats, who ended up forming a coalition headed by Christian Democrat Chancellor Angela Merkel.

SPD deserters and former communists cover bases

Gregor Gysi und Oskar Lafontaine

Gysi and Lafontaine have the east and west covered with their politics.

While the former communists derive most of their backing in the east, the WASG, formed by deserters from the Social Democrats such as former finance minister Oskar Lafontaine in February, has its support base in the west.

"We must unite to respect the desire of the electorate who voted for us, because without us there is not more Left in parliament," Lafontaine said.

Many WASG members are however wary of a merger, fearing they will be swallowed up by the PDS, which they accuse of not shaking off its communist past.

Stasi revelations dog the new Left dawn

Stasi Akten Kartei

The east's secret past still dogs some of the region's politicians.

The past came back to haunt one of the party's members on Saturday, when Bernhard Walther revealed he was listed as an informer for the Stasi, the East German secret police, sparking vociferous questioning.

Although Walther said his listing was a formality because of his position in an import-export company, he decided in the end not to take the position of treasurer, despite winning a large majority.

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