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Left Party Not Yet Out of the Power Game

DW staff (ncy)September 23, 2005

The Left Party was the only contender in the German polls who could claim a full victory, winning 8.7 percent of votes in their first bid for power. They may yet end up being the king-makers.

The Left Party could end up with an influential role in German politicsImage: AP

Going from zero to 54 parliamentarians in the Bundestag or the lower house of parliament following Sunday's general elections, Germany's Left Party should be on cloud nine this week.

The newly formed party of disgruntled Social Democrats and former communists became the fourth-largest group in parliament after Sunday's election.

Neither the Christian Union (CDU) and their preferred coalition partners, the Free Democrats, nor the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Green party, the current government coalition, won a majority of votes in the election.

But despite their glowing results, the Left Party hasn't ended up playing king-maker.

Though the Left Party could make up the difference between a majority or minority coalition for either constellation, all four parties have rejected working with them. For its part, the leftists have said they would not tolerate an SPD-Green minority government -- the only parties with ideas that connect with their own.

But parliamentary opposition may not be the Left Party's fate, after all.

Several Left Party parliamentarians said on Wednesday that they would tolerate continuation of the current coalition if the Social Democrats would make changes to their agenda, despite the SPD's insistence that Gerhard Schröder remain chancellor.

Conditions for toleration

Linke sind dabei
Image: dpa

Left Party parliamentarian Hüseyin-Kenan Aydin said labor and tax policies would have to be adjusted. "If the SPD says we want Schröder and we accept the conditions, then we'll also vote Schröder," he said. Aydin added that his opinions did not differ from those of the party's leaders, Gregor Gysi and Oscar Lafontaine.

But the leftists' campaign manager, Bodo Ramelow, rejected the option, saying that not one Left Party parliamentarian would back Schröder's policies.

Several further Left Party parliamentarians said they too, could imagine their party tolerating an SPD-Green coalition.

"A minority government is an option," Sabine Zimmermann told news Web site Spiegel Online. She said that in light of Germany's high unemployment, something had to be done quickly and that she couldn't comprehend that the SPD ruled out any cooperation with her party. Parliamentarian Alexander Ulrich said toleration depended on the SPD and Greens ruling out deployment of the German army abroad.

On Tuesday, Oskar Lafontaine, the Left Party's designated parliamentary group leader, praised the SPD and Green party agendas and also implied that his party could possibly work with them.

"I could sign the Green's election manifesto as it is. It's not far from the party that I currently represent," he said on German public broadcaster ARD. "The SPD's revised agenda before the election had less to do with the actions of the past seven years," he commented. "If one were to orient oneself on the issues, there would now certainly be an exciting situation."

Slight shift

Gernot Erler
Gernot ErlerImage: dpa

Though neither the SPD nor the Greens have made any overtures to suggest they would work with the Left Party, their seemingly determined stance seems to be weakening.

SPD deputy parliamentary group leader Gernot Erler (photo) stressed on Thursday on InfoRadio Berlin-Brandenburg that there would not be a coalition between the Social Democrats, the Greens and the Left Party, but that didn't mean that the 54 parliamentarians from the left were "air."

And the Green's Christian Ströbele, deputy leader of his party's parliamentary group, said that the leftists' rejection of a coalition with the SPD and Greens was a "big mistake."