Germany's left parties agree coalition deal in eastern state

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 19, 2014 11:39 AM

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's three left-leaning parties have agreed a deal to rule in the eastern state of Thuringia, setting the stage for the country's first state premier from the radical Left party to take power some 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Bodo Ramelow, the Left's candidate in Thuringia, said in a tweet on Wednesday he had agreed a program for government with the Greens and with the Social Democrats (SPD), who rule on the national level with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives.

A close result in the Thuringia election in September means, however, that Ramelow, a trade unionist who grew up in West Germany, cannot be certain of becoming premier until the state assembly holds its vote, planned for Dec. 5.

A 'red-red-green' coalition in Thuringia is widely seen as a test ground for a possible future federal ruling alliance.

The SPD, trailing Merkel's conservatives by more than 15 points in opinion polls, is keen to explore different options, although any partnership with the Left could be fraught partly as many disillusioned SPD members have defected to the Left.

The prospect of Germany getting its first state premier from the Left, a pacifist party that opposes NATO and wants higher taxes on the rich, has triggered soul-searching as some of its members were in East Germany's Socialist Unity Party (SED).

German President Joachim Gauck, who campaigned for civil rights in the East during communist rule, has expressed doubts about whether the Left is ready to run a state.

The coalition talks also triggered an emotive row over whether communist East Germany, responsible for killing and incarcerating people it deemed to be political foes, can be described as an unjust state.

Merkel has also warned the SPD against allying with the Left.

In the election, Merkel's Christian Democrats failed to win enough votes to extend a 24-year hold on power in Thuringia. The Left came second and Ramelow persuaded the SPD and Greens to enter coalition talks.

(Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Stephen Brown and Ralph Boulton)