29 September 2005 Edition

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Left Advance in German Elections



Germany's newly-formed Left Party achieved an historic breakthrough in last week's Federal elections taking 54 seats in the German parliament. This is the first time that the left has broken through the country's 5% threshold to secure parliamentary representation since German re-unification.

The PDS-Left Party is an electoral coalition bringing together the mainly East German Democratic Socialists of Gregor Gysi's PDS, with disgruntled social democrats and left currents from the West led by former SPD Finance Minister Oscar Lafontaine.

The result will see a real left opposition for the first time in the Bundestag, as the Left Party overtook the Greens to become Germany's fourth political force, after the Christian Democrats, The Social Democrats and the Liberals.

Campaigning on a platform of defending public services, opposing the European Constitution, and arguing for an expansionist industrial strategy to overcome Germany's current high unemployment rate, the Left Party's 8.7% is a major breakthrough.

Meanwhile, both Angela Merkel's CDU and Schroder's SPD failed to get an outright majority. Nor do their respective coalition partners, the Liberals and Greens respectively, give either leader a working parliamentary majority.

As a result Germany has been plunged into a political crisis, as the party's have until 18 October to form a workable coalition.

This week Schroder offered the Christian Democrats the prospect of a so-called Grand Coalition with rotating Chancellors, but so far this has been rejected by Merkel's Christian Democrats. Other possible options include the Liberals joining a Green-Social Democratic coalition, something which they have rejected, or the equally unlikely scenario of the Greens joining with the Liberals and CDU.

As the political bargaining continues behind the scenes, there is little doubt that the PDS-Left Party has built a credible base from which to build an even more important position in German national politics.

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