Germany's 'Red Oskar' set for more electoral success

The Factory, an "alternative" venue in Hamburg's hip Altona district, was so full that police had to stop more people entering. Inside, crimson-faced and in front of a banner of the same hue, "Red Oskar" Lafontaine, the undisputed king of Germany's radical new "The Left" party was deep into a tirade against warmongers and capitalist neo-liberals.

The event was The Left's final rally in the party's campaign for Hamburg city state elections on Sunday in which Germany's mainstream political parties are set to lose votes to the new movement for the third time in just over a month. In similar elections in Hesse and Lower Saxony in January, The Left won seats in west Germany's main provinces for the first time in its brief history.

At the Hamburg meet, Mr Lafontaine, the renegade former Social Democrat leader once described by The Sun as Europe's "most dangerous man", accused Chancellor Angela Merkel's government of imposing neo-liberal "Thatcherite" policies on millions of impoverished Germans unable to survive on meagre unemployment and social security benefits.

Then it was Germany's "senseless" and "illegal" deployment of troops in Afghanistan that was singled out by Mr Lafontaine.

Quoting Germany's popular post-war Social Democrat leader Willy Brandt, he exclaimed: "Never again should war be conducted from German soil!" The 2,000-strong crowd roared and cheered in rapture.

Opinion polls suggest that the party will win up to9 per cent of the vote in Hamburg. That could be enough to deprive the classic political alliances made up of conservatives and liberals or Social Democrat and Greens of enough seats to win a clear parliamentary majority. In Hesse, The Left now holds the balance of power and as no other party will agree to form a coalition with them, the state is still without a proper government.

The prospect of something similar happening at a national level during Germany's general election next year is beginning to worry the country's established parties. With its populist remedies – which include a minimum wage, renationalisation of the energy sector , a super tax for the rich, and troops out of Afghanistan – The Left is winning the support of voters fed up with the middle-of-the road policies of Mrs Merkel's coalition of conservatives and Social Democrats.

The party started out as a reformed version of the former East German Communist Party after German unification in 1990 and only campaigned in the east. But last year it shifted west, recruited scores of disaffected ex-Social Democrats and more radical left wingers and renamed itself "The Left". Although the party shares power with the Social Democrats in Berlin, the Social Democrats dismiss a national alliance because The Left is too radical.

Mr Lafontaine, a former finance minister and Social Democrat party leader who was forced to quit both posts in 1999 after a furious row over the party's alleged drift towards neo-liberalism, has emerged as The Left's champion.

An opinion poll published yesterday by Germany's respected Allensbach institute showed that The Left is now easily the country's third political force after the conservatives and Social Democrats and has the support of 12 per cent of voters.

Mr Lafontaine insists that his party is a natural home for all Social Democrats who feel their party has deserted its socialist roots and for Greens who think their party has forgotten its pacifist traditions.

Yet The Left was shaken during its campaign after one of it members was exposed as a radical Communist with "loony left" tendencies. Christel Wegner, a newly-elected MP in Lower Saxony went on television and called for the return of East Germany's infamous Stasi secret police and suggested that the Berlin Wall was designed to stop West Germans going on shopping sprees in East Germany.

Mr Lafontaine attempted to make light of the affair in Hamburg. In a reference to Mrs Merkel who was brought up in East Germany and obliged to join the Communist youth movement, he said: "Even our Chancellor was once an enthusiastic Communist!"

Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features playground gun massacre
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
arts + entsBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Morrissey pictured in 2013
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Hydraulic Power Pack Design Engineer

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I recruit for contract mechanical design...

SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

SCO Supervisor Electrical

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client based in the Midlands is looki...

Ecommerce Executive

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Ecommerce Executive Working with an...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices