Ex-communists Set to Take Berlin | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 08.12.2001
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Ex-communists Set to Take Berlin

They once divided the city with a wall. Now they divide its citizens by staging a political comeback.


No more problems like this for Berlin

The heirs to East Germany's communist party looked increasingly likely to take power in Berlin, Saturday, after announcing key breakthroughs in negotiations with the Social Democrats who run the once-divided city.

But local party leaders have yet to reveal the nature of their negotiated breakthrough.

For many Berliners, east and west, the new success of the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) seems like a perverse time warp.

But the PDS's winnings in Berlin's October election – 22 percent of the vote – make it a potential coalition partner for the Social Democratic Party (SPD), which otherwise lacks a majority in the local parliament.

Berlin is not just the capital city of 3.4 million people but also a federal state.

A breakdown in negotiations between the SPD and two other potential coalition partners opened the door to the ex-communists earlier this week, and the PDS has been quick to fill the void, led by its spunky, bespectacled mayoral candidate Gregor Gysi (photo).

Gregor Gysi

Gysi stands no chance of taking the mayoral office, already occupied by Klaus Wowereit, an SPD politician. But the PDS will likely get some share of the power.

The party has sought a coalition with the left-leaning SPD for over a month. But disputes over plans for an Olympic bid and a new airport, had made a "red-red" coalition unlikely – as did German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's refusal to let his SPD work with the ex-communists.

But in the name of political expedience it may happen, anyway.

National resistance

Local party officials said they will take up the issue with national leaders before publicizing any deal.

Schröder's SPD is wary of appearing too "red" in the run-up to Germany's 2002 parliamentary elections, and a deal with the PDS would outrage many voters, especially in western states.

The ex-communists are despised by millions for their complicity in the bloody partition of Berlin and the entire country. During the Cold War, easterners were often shot when trying to escape the communists' single-party dictatorship by crossing illegally to the democratic federal republic.

The PDS had made efforts to distance itself from that history, apologising for its predecessors' role in the partition. But for some Berliners, it is an unforgivable association.

The city, for the near future, will be in the red no matter how its political fate plays out. It suffers from a budget deficit of some $4.5 billion dollars.

The ex-comunists' plan to close the budget gap, to nobody's surprise, is higher taxes.

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