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.
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Then and Now
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Then and Now
1/17 Berlin Wall
The Brandenburg Gate landmark in Berlin with people dancing on the Berlin Wall on 10 November 1989 and 25 years after in October 2014
2/17 Berlin Wall
East Berlin citizens crowding the new passage at Bernauer Strasse in Berlin where East German border police tore down segments of the wall on 11 November 1989 (top) and people walking at the crossing Bernauer Strasse and Oderberger Strasse on 26 October 2014
3/17 Berlin Wall
East-German policemen in work dress as they remove barbed wire from a brick wall while other policemen in background are raising the wall to 15 feet at the border between the French and Russian sector at Bernauer Strasse in Berlin on 9 September 1961 (top) and the line the of former Berlin Wall in the pavement at Bernauer Strasse in Berlin on 21 October 2014
4/17 Berlin Wall
US President John F Kennedy looking across the Berlin Wall into East Germany during his visit on 26 June 1963 (top) and the area of former Checkpoint Charlie on 24 September 2014
5/17 Berlin Wall
West Berliners waving to relatives in East Berlin one year after the Berlin Wall was erected at Bernauer Strasse on 13 August 1962 (left) and people crossing the area of the former Berlin Wall in Berlin on 26 October 2014
6/17 Berlin Wall
Children playing at the Berlin Wall at Sebastianstrasse near Heinrich-Heine-Strasse in 1968 (top) and a man walking over the once divided Sebastianstrasse on 3 November 2014
7/17 Berlin Wall
A view of East Berlin, taken from an observation platform in Bernauer Strasse, West Berlin, in 1980 (top) and trams crossing the area of former Berlin Wall at Bernauer Strasse in Berlin on 1 October 2014
8/17 Berlin Wall
A woman looking at the Berlin Wall along the Spree river in central Berlin in 1980 (top) and the construction side of the Charite hospital in background and a bridge crossing the river spree where once stood the Berlin Wall at the Reichstagsufer in Berlin on 16 September 2014
9/17 Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall along Bernauer Strasse in the north of Berlin with a writing 'The wall must fall' on 8 March 1973 (top) and a part of the Wall Remembrance Monument at the same spot at Bernauer Strasse in Berlin on 21 October 2014
10/17 Berlin Wall
US President Richard Nixon looking across the communist wall into East Germany during his stay in the divided city on 27 February 1969 (top) and the area of the former Berlin Wall at the Checkpoint Heinrich-Heine-Strasse on 24 September 2014
11/17 Berlin Wall
US President John F Kennedy walking past a cordon of saluting servicemen and the sentry post of "Checkpoint Charlie" on 26 June 1963 and actors wearing uniforms at the area of former Checkpoint Charlie, with a rebuilt checkpoint as touristic attraction in Berlin on 24 September 2014
12/17 Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall checkpoint at Heinrich-Heine-Strasse on 12 March 1971 (top) and people walking and cycling at the area of former checkpoint at district Kreuzberg in Berlin on 1 October 2014
13/17 Berlin Wall
A child playing on a play ground at the Berlin wall in July 1981 (top) and cars parking at the same spot in Berlin's Kreuzberg district on 2 October 2014
14/17 Berlin Wall
East Germans erecting the wall in front of the Reichtags building on 20 November 1961 (top) and cyclists going by on 25 September 2014
15/17 Berlin Wall
Construction work at the Berlin Wall on 13 Augugust 1985 on Friedrichstrasse near checkpoint Charlie (top) and Friedrichstrasse on 2 October 2014
16/17 Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall at the empty Potsdamer Platz in August 1962 (top) and cars and busses dring there on 25 September 2014
17/17 Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall around the Brandenburg Gate on 19 November 1961 (top) and cars and busses passing by 25 years after the fall of the wall on 24 October 2014
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.
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.