Germany set for first far-left regional premier since the fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago

Leading Left Party member Bodo Ramelow's appointment is due to be confirmed in early December following the defeat of Angela Merkel's ruling conservative Christian Democrats in Thuringia

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The Independent Online

A politician from the formerly communist Left Party is set to become Germany’s first far-left regional premier since the fall of the Berlin Wall and lead a coalition that could serve as a blueprint to oust Chancellor Angela Merkel from national government in 2017.

Bodo Ramelow, a leading member of the Left Party, which succeeded former East Germany’s ruling communist party, is on course to become prime minister of the eastern state of Thuringia under a deal which will see his party form a coalition with the left-of-centre Social Democrats and Greens.

His appointment, due to be confirmed in early December, follows the left’s defeat of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling conservative Christian Democrats in Thuringia in a state election held in September. “We will pursue pragmatic policies,” Mr Ramelow said, adding that he wanted to encourage “reconciliation” between his party and the victims of communist rule.

Commentators were quick to point out that if the so-called “red-red-green” alliance were copied at national level it would pose a serious political threat to Angela Merkel and have the potential to oust her during Germany’s next general election in three years’ time.

 

Ms Merkel’s conservatives have categorically ruled out any form of political alliance with the Left Party. They frequently dismiss the organisation outright because of its totalitarian roots. Until recently the centre-left Social Democrats also flatly ruled out the idea of a coalition with the Left Party at national level.

The main practical objections have been the Left Party’s vehement opposition to German military involvement in Nato missions and its criticism of current German policies on Russia and Europe.

But the political climate in Germany is changing. “Step by step, the Left Party has changed over the past 25 years from being a despised outsider party to one of the established political forces in Germany,” said the conservative Die Welt newspaper, one of the Left Party’s fiercest critics. “At a national level, the Social Democrats and the Greens no longer completely rule out a coalition with the successors to the East German communist party,” it added.

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The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 (Getty Images)

Sigmar Gabriel, the Social Democrat leader and the deputy Chancellor in Ms Merkel’s grand coalition government in Berlin, has yet to confirm he would support the idea of a red-red-green coalition at national level, however the left wing of his party favours the idea.

The Left Party has shared power in several eastern German states, including Berlin, since the fall of the Berlin Wall. But it has never fielded a state prime minister. Mr Ramelow will be the first.

In an attempt to counter their right-wing detractors, Mr Ramelow’s future coalition issued a statement declaring that it considered former East Germany to have been an “unjust state” in which human rights were habitually abused.

Current political arithmetic suggests that the Left Party would find it difficult to oust Ms Merkel in 2017. Polls suggest that the eurosceptic Alternative for Germany party would split the national vote and make only a repeat of Ms Merkel’s grand coalition possible or, failing that, a coalition of Christian Democrats and Greens. Ms Merkel has said she would not oppose the latter option.

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