The eastern German state of Thuringia awaited the unveiling of a highly-anticipated coalition agreement on Thursday. For the first time in German history, center-left and left parties - namely, the Social Democrats (SPD), the Green and the Left - will govern a state. The change sets up a stark contrast to other states where Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) dominates policies.
While the coalition agreement, reached on on Wednesday night, must still be approved in a vote by Left and Greens members, some from the Left were already hailing the expected coalition as a game changer.
"Red-Red-Green will modernize Thuringia. It's about social cohesion, economic success and environmental transformation," Left party chairperson Katja Kipping told the German daily "Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung" on Thursday, referring to the parties by their colors.
The domination of Germany's current center-right CDU/center-left SPD "Grand Coalition" under Chancellor Angela Merkel over national politics has all but pushed the country's minority parties in parliament - the Greens and the Left - out of the decision-making process.
Thuringia's Red-Red-Green coalition will have only a 50 percent majority. But high expectations for Left party success with its SPD and Greens coalition partners has raised the party's hopes that the change in the eastern German state will begin reshaping the political landscape, and not just in former East Germany.
"If it goes well, it will be signal [to other states]," Kipping said, pointing to federal elections in 2017, after which she hoped there would be "as many state governments without CDU as possible."
First ever Left state premier?
Even more significant than the prospect of just helping govern a state is that of Thuringia having Germany's first-ever Left state premier. On December 5, Thuringian lawmakers will vote for the head of the state government, which could see Left politician Bodo Ramelow (pictured above) take power.
Critics of the party - including German President Joachim Gauck - have voiced concern about the party's gains, citing the Left's roots in former East Germany. Even 25 years after reunification, the question of how to remember the eastern state's communist past #link:18049622:continues to stir public debate.
However, Left chairperson Kipping made clear ahead of the coalition unveiling that her party intended to gain more political influence, reaching up to the national level.
"Our goal is [to draw] a red circle around the chancellery," she said.
Fears of too much compromise
Not all Left politicians viewed the historic deal as a clear victory for the party, which has long stayed in the minority across Germany.
Speaking to the German daily the "Mitteldeutsche Zeitung," Left politician Inge Höger stressed the reality of coalition politics, with the Left sharing a good portion of power with the SPD.
If the party's state premier candidate, Ramelow, continued down the same path, Höger said she couldn't imagine "how Left policies would really be implemented."
Not only does the coalition itself just barely have a majority with half of the seats, but the Left has also agreed to take the same number of ministries as the SPD - three each - even though the center-left party won only half as many votes in the regional elections. The Greens, who won half as many votes as the SPD, are to take two ministries.
The Red-Red-Green coalition seeks to introduce reforms that include free childcare for a year and pouring more money into education and municipalities.
kms/tj (AFP, dpa)