Thuringia's unprecedented three-way left-leaning coalition government has sought to show a mainstream face on announcing its plans for the next five years. One pledge was a 2015 budget with no new government debts.
Future state premier Bodo Ramelow of the Left party, who is set to become the first ever Left politician to lead a German state government, allowed other members of his coalition to steal the spotlight on Thursday. Other leaders from the Social Democrats, Greens, and the Left presented a 150-page document outlining the new coalition's plans for the next five years in office.
Ramelow should take center stage on December 5, when a parliamentary vote appointing him as state premier is scheduled to take place.
In the eastern German state's capital, Erfurt, the new coalition presented its plans on issues including education, family, job creation, the economy, and state finances.
Susanne Hennig-Wellsow of the Left party, Andreas Bausewein from the Greens and the Social Democrats' Dieter Launiger - the parties' respective leaders on the parliamentary floor in Erfurt (pictured together at top of article) - said that their government would not take on any new debts. This "black zero," as it's commonly described in the papers and by politicians, is a key conservative policy on the national level.
Left seeking to break into mainstream
The Left's Bodo Ramelow said that this, perhaps surprising, proposal was a statement of his intent to serve Thuringia's interests, not his party's policy preferences.
"I will be the state premier for Thuringia and not the Left party's outpost within the state chancellery," Ramelow told Reuters on Thursday. The Left, Germany's third-largest party, is eager to demonstrate its viability as a coalition partner.
Mainstream parties in many German states - and on the national level - currently categorically rule out a political alliance with "Die Linke," the democratic successor to the Communist SED that ruled in former East Germany. Party leader Gregor Gysi has already hailed the Thuringia coalition as a sign that this situation is changing. Theoretically, the same parties could join together and hold a majority in the national German parliament as well.
The three-way coalition, known as a "red-red-green" alliance in German parlance after the parties' respective colors, is a major change for Thuringia since German reunification. Every state government since had been led by Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats. The CDU was still Thuringia's most successful single party in September's election, but the conservatives could not find a willing coalition partner.
Thin majority, strong opposition
Combined, the Left, the Greens and the Social Democrats can scrape together a one-seat majority (46 of the 91 available) in the state parliament. The CDU holds 34 seats, the euroskeptic AfD party has the remaining 11, making the opposition all-conservative.
Hennig-Wellsow, Bausewein and Launiger all rejected suggestions that the coalition was already on shaky ground; Hennig-Wellsow called the alliance "very stable," Launiger praised the "fair" cooperation hammering out terms for their coalition.
"The score's 3-0 for red-red-green," Henning-Wellsow said. "We have the parliamentary majority, we have a candidate for state premier, we have the coalition agreement."
Gysi's stances on the GDR and foreign policy are often cited as reasons for the Left not being a viable national coalition partner
The new coalition has courted controversy, however. Protesters gathered in Erfurt last month to oppose the negotiations towards a left-leaning coalition; another such demonstration is scheduled for the eve of the parliamentary vote to appoint Ramelow as state premier. Some Left party politicians have also reported receiving threatening phone calls and letters.
GDR condemnation, education policies highlighted
One key part of the new government's 150-page document, certainly for the SPD and the Greens, had very little to do with present day politics or the upcoming legislative term.
The coalition members presented a lengthy statement about the GDR, former East Germany, describing it as "a dictatorship, not a country of laws." In the past, Left party leader Gysi has come under fire for his unwillingness to use such language when describing the GDR.
The Left also ceded more ministerial posts to the SPD and Greens - its junior partners - than a party usually would based on the results of September's election. As well as state premier Ramelow, the Left would take three ministerial posts, as would the Social Democrats, with two more going to the Greens.
Other policy proposals put forward in Erfurt on Thursday included a free year of kindergarten education for young children, the recruitment of 500 new teachers each year, and severe limitations on the use of criminal informants (known in Germany as "V-Leute") by Germany's domestic intelligence agency.
msh/se (AFP, dpa, Reuters)