New radicals win seats in Germany

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The Independent Online

Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling conservative Christian Democrats lost their absolute majority in key city state elections in Hamburg yesterday in which Germany's new radical left wing Left party won seats in the northern port for the first time.

Mrs Merkel's party dropped its share of the vote from 47 to 42.5 per cent losing the city mayor, Ole von Beust absolute control of the city. The poll was seen as a key test of the Chancellor's ability to stem a swing to the left ahead of Germany's general election next year.

The opposition Social Democrats upped their share of the vote by 4 points to 34 per cent leaving them without enough seats to fulfil their ambition to form a so-called Red-Green coalition with the Green party which won 9.5 per cent of the vote.

The Left party won 6.5 per cent of the vote and entered the city state parliament for the first time. The gains followed similar election successes for the party, which contains many former Communist Party members, in polls in the western states of Hesse and Lower Saxony last month.

None of Germany's main parties will accept the idea of a coalition with the Left party at national level. Franz Müntefereing, a senior Social Democrat yesterday accused it of wanting to turn Germany into a "European Cuba" and said the idea of an alliance with the party was totally impractical.

The Left party, which started as a successor to the East German Communist Party after reunification in 1990, has recently emerged as Germany's third political force and has alarmed politicians in the country's more established parties after gaining footholds in what was considered a no-go area in the west.