Red and Green Saxony link worries SPD

GERMANY'S opposition Social Democrats (SPD) win a valuable political prize this week but some in the party have been reluctant to accept it - because it offers the SPD's opponents, the Christian Democrats, an electoral stick with which to beat them.

Following an agreement that was officially approved at the weekend, Reinhold Hoppner, a Social Democrat, will this week be confirmed as Prime Minister of the east German state of Saxony-Anhalt. A minority government of Social Democrats and Greens will replace the ruling Christian Democrats (CDU).

Normally, that would be an obvious reason for celebration. But there is a problem for the SPD. The minority government can take power only by courtesy of the successor party to the East German Communists (PDS). The PDS has said it will 'tolerate' the new coalition. Judging by the first reactions of the Christian Democrats, such half-hearted support is likely to fuel endless attacks in the run-up to federal elections in three months.

The Christian Democrats are furious at losing the post which they believe was rightfully theirs. The CDU was ahead of the SPD by a whisker in last month's election - 34.4 per cent, against 34 per cent - and had already begun celebrating in the confident belief that Christoph Bergner, the CDU Prime Minister, would remain in power, despite the considerable losses that the ruling coalition sustained (the CDU's coalition partners, the Free Democrats, failed even to get back into parliament).

The CDU wanted a 'grand coalition' of Social and Christian Democrats, in which the CDU would keep the premiership. But an exultant SPD could not resist the temptation of snatching the first prize in order to present Saxony-Anhalt as an 'SPD gain'.

But it has proved to be an ambiguous gain. The SPD has been concerned, above all, to distance itself from the PDS. Indeed, in many respects, the PDS is the SPD's worst enemy in the east, because it siphons off a large number of SPD votes. By allowing the Saxony-Anhalt coalition to be created only by grace of the PDS, the Social Democrats have let the CDU tar them with the 'Communist' brush. The SPD protests that the CDU has also co-operated with the PDS on a local level - but the protest is almost drowned out.

In the east, the relative strength of the PDS - it gained 20 per cent of the vote in Saxony-Anhalt - is a fact of life. In the west, however, the idea that former Communists can be treated as a serious discussion partner for the SPD is anathema. The SPD itself is deeply split on the issue, thus presenting an easy target for CDU attacks.

At the beginning of this year, the SPD had a clear lead and few commentators gave Mr Kohl much chance of survival. Since then, Mr Kohl has steadily crept up from behind and the CDU is now ahead in the polls. The SPD has tried hard to hit back. But the issue of co-operation with the PDS has put the party leadership clearly on the defensive in the lead-up to the elections.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Director - Tech Startup - Direct Your Own Career Path

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telephone Sales Advisor - OTE £35,000

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telephone Sales Advisor is re...

Recruitment Genius: Appointment Maker - OTE £20,000

£14000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An office based Appointment Mak...

Recruitment Genius: Healthcare Assistant

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This provider of care services is looking for...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent