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Left party presents ambitious election platform

April 3, 2017

Germany's left-wing party has vowed to pursue a higher minimum wage, raise corporate taxes and protect refugees. The Left also tried to distance itself from the SPD while holding out for the possibility of a coalition.

Bundesparteitag Die Linke in Hamburg
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Germany's Left Party unveiled its official campaign platform on Monday ahead of federal elections in September. Under the slogan of "Social Justice for All," the liberals hoped to carve out a niche for themselves in an election year characterized by a weakening of party identity across the board.

"We want to take a very clear stance against the right-wing. For us there are no upper limits. The right to asylum is not negotiable," said party co-chair Bernd Riexinger in Berlin, making it very clear that the "for all" part of their slogan included Germany's many new arrivals as well.

Other key points in the Left's platform included raising the minimum wage from 8.84 euros to 12 euros ($9.42 to $12.78), imposing regulations on landlords seeking to raise rents, and ending Germany two-tier healthcare system that has both a public and private option in favor of a more "equal" program. They also want to halt all weapons exports.

Riexinger also sought to contrast the Left party as much as possible with the Social Democrats (SPD), the center-left mainstream party who, along with Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), have made up the core of German politics since the end of World War II.

Sarah Wagenknecht, Die Linke
Sahra Wagenknecht, one of the founding members of the party, has been nominated by the Left as their candidate for chancellor along with Dietmar BartschImage: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Gambarini

Left tries to have it both ways with SPD

Indeed, one of the major issues in this year's election is that after four years of a grand coalition between the SPD and CDU, increased prosperity and agreement on a number of key issues, Germany's political parties are struggling to highlight their differences from other another.

In that vein, Reixinger said that "the biggest difference between us and the SPD is in our tax policy." The Left wants to close loopholes and increase taxes on business and the wealthy, which they hope will help fund some of their more ambitious programs like a universal basic income and massive investment in education and digital infrastructure.

As the SPD moves away from Merkel and closer to the left wing of the party under chancellor candidate Martin Schulz, the Left is struggling to hold on to its eight percent poll numbers as newcomers the nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) and other smaller parties like the Greens carve up some of its territory.

In Germany, parties need at least five percent of the vote to hold seats in parliament. The Left party has hinted that it would be interested in ruling in coalition with the Green party and the SPD, should the possibility present itself in September. 

However, speaking on German public television on Monday morning, Left party lawmaker Dietmar Bartsch dismissed coalition plotting as "annoying" for voters, and said "every party should fight for itself."

Elizabeth Schumacher
Elizabeth Schumacher Elizabeth Schumacher reports on gender equity, immigration, poverty and education in Germany.