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Finally an all left German party!

A clear left alternative emerged during the elections in Germany in September. Led by Gregor Gysi in the east and Oskar Lafontaine in the west, the new left party got 8,7 percent of the vote and 54 representatives in the Bundestag.


Formally, it was the PDS that won the election, the party that gathers over a fifth of voters in the east, but is microscopic in the west. But in reality, the PDS went to election in collaboration with the fresh left-wing party WASG (Labor and Social Justice Election Alternative), a party that was an outbreak from the left in the SPD, the major Social Democratic Party, along with radical union representatives from several unions. The collaboration consisted of PDS including WASG people on their lists across Germany.

Two essentially different parties

There are two very different parties that will now try to merge. They have very different backgrounds, one is freshly smoked, the other is still struggling to be perceived as a kind of successor to SED, the state-bearing party in former East Germany.

In several ways they could complement each other. In PDS, more than half the members are retirement pensioners. In WASG, most are between 20 and 50 years. PDS has over 60.000 members, but no more than 5.000 in the west where 80 percent of the population lives. WASG has 11.000 members, but only 1.500 of them in the east, half of them in Berlin.

Like a dog and cat in Berlin

The problems between the parties are extra large in the east. In the west, WASG was founded as an alternative to the SPD, in the east – and at least in Berlin – WASG was founded in strong opposition to the PDS.

PDS is in government with the Social Democrats in two states in the east, in Berlin and in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. There they have helped cut social services, dismiss public employees, privatize public companies. WASG members in the East demand that PDS step out of these governments. Otherwise there will be no party gathering.

July 2007 may be late

There are plans for referendums on the party rally in both parties and – if all goes well – a founding congress in July 2007. But by then, state elections have been held in half of the states, in Berlin in September 2006. WASG and PDS each list in the capital, the media will flood the contradictions all over Germany. So there is strong pressure from both party leaders to find a solution in Berlin. It will not be easy.

However critical it becomes. It is by no means obvious that the new left will manage the barrier in the ten western states. With the exception of Lafontaine's own Saarland (18,5 per cent), Bremen (8,3 per cent) and Hamburg (6,3 per cent), the results in the west varied from 3,4 per cent in Bavaria to 5,6 per cent in Rhineland-Palatinate. In four of the ten western states, the result was clearly below the limit, and in three others just over 5 percent.

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