Andrea Ypsilanti has ditched a controversial bid to use votes from a far-left party to take power in the German state of Hesse in an about-turn that has sparked debate and raised the pressure on the SPD.
Ypsilanti made an embarrassing retreat when she lost the support of her own team
"I will not stand for election on April 5, as I cannot guarantee a majority," Ypsilanti told reporters on Friday, March 7, ditching a controversial plan to build a minority alliance with the Green party tolerated by Germany's far-left party in the western state of Hesse. The move amounted to Ypsilanti going back on a pledge not to work with the grouping of ex-communists and leftist Social Democrat deserters from western Germany.
“We cannot take this path, since there are parliamentarians with us that will not go down this path,” Ypsilanti said in a statement.
Earlier, a renegade SPD member in Hesse's state legislature, Dagmar Metzger, had made it clear that she would not back a deal with the Left party which is considered by many in the SPD as being unreliable and populist.
After a deadlocked state election on Jan. 27, Hesse was left scrambling to form a government. Both the SPD and incumbent premier Roland Koch's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) won 42 seats each in the 110-seat legislature.
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SPD head Kurt Beck had given Ypsilanti the green light to pursue a cooperation with the Left Party, sparking a uproar in Social Democratic ranks. The move also raised questions about Beck's credibility and his presumed bid to challenge Chancellor Angela Merkel in next year's federal election.
Ypsilanti said earlier in the week that her decision to break with pre-election promises not to rely on the Left party for votes had been "very, very difficult" for her.
Koch had urged the SPD to consider a "grand coalition" together with the conservatives, similar to Chancellor Angela Merkel's model at the federal level. He said Friday that his conservative party would seek coalition talks with the free-market liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Greens, which have 11 and nine seats respectively in the state legislature.
The Greens have so far ruled out a coalition with the conservatives.
Neither of the two major parties can attain a majority of 56 seats with just one partner, but would need to get either the Left party or the Greens on board as well.