Germany's socialist Left Party has urged the center-left Social Democrats and Greens to consider a three-way alliance to beat Chancellor Angela Merkel in this month's elections. The numbers work, but could the alliance?
The German Left Party on Monday issued its ten-point plan for voters ahead of the national election on September 22.
Key policy proposals like implementing a minimum wage, bolstering pensions and a shorter working week were perhaps predictable; the Left's appeal to other center-left parties to consider a three-way ruling coalition at the federal level was more of a surprise.
"We're ready to kick Angela Merkel out of the driving seat," senior party figure Bernd Riexinger said, before questioning whether the other opposition parties could say the same. Riexinger said that the Social Democrats and Greens were so keen to exclude the Left from any potential alliances that this unwillingness had turned them into "Mrs. Merkel's best piece of life insurance."
According to current opinion polls, the Social Democrats and Greens do not look likely to win the outright victory they set as their combined election goal. Adding the estimated 8 percent of the vote that the Left might hope to secure, however, a three-way alliance could theoretically pass the winning post.
Foreign policy hurdles
As Germany's most left-leaning mainstream party, the Left's domestic policies diverge from the Social Democrats on several levels - but perhaps the most fundamental difference can be found in foreign policy.
The Left is the only completely pacifist German party, saying German troops should never be stationed abroad and arguing for the abolition of NATO. One of the Left's ten proposals released on Monday was a blanket ban on deploying the German Bundeswehr on any foreign mission during the four-year legislative period.
"A Left Party that is not reliable on foreign policy … we cannot envisage any cooperation with them," Green party candidate Katrin Göring-Eckardt said.
The Social Democrats, meanwhile, said that neither a coalition, nor even so-called "toleration" from the Left would be acceptable. Toleration is a comparatively rare situation in German politics where a party agrees to prop up a minority government without formally joining it.
The Left and the Social Democrats are allies in some of Germany's state governments, but the former has never been involved in a national government in Germany.
With less than two weeks to go until the election, the current coalition received some bad news in Monday's press. Merkel's junior coalition partners, the pro-business Free Democrats, slipped to 4 percent in a poll conducted by the Insa Institute for the German daily newspaper Bild. German parties must secure at least 5 percent of the overall vote to guarantee themselves representation in parliament.
Current polls, which put Merkel's Christian Democrats comfortably ahead overall, suggest that the Free Democrats' ability to clear this hurdle will decide whether there is a change in the German government.
msh/ph (AFP, AP, Reuters)