Left alliance mooted in Germany, shattering long-held taboo

SPD interim co-leader says party’s ambition is to lead alliance with Left Party and Greens

Recent polls have the SPD on just 11.5 per cent, almost half of its worst-ever federal election result in 2017. Photograph: Sascha Schuermann/AFP/Getty Images

Recent polls have the SPD on just 11.5 per cent, almost half of its worst-ever federal election result in 2017. Photograph: Sascha Schuermann/AFP/Getty Images

 

A senior member of Germany’s ailing Social Democratic Party (SPD) has shattered a long-standing political taboo by urging the party to consider a coalition with the Left Party at federal level.

Malu Dreyer, interim co-leader of the SPD until it chooses a new leader, has said such an alliance – until now rejected by the party – would be a legitimate way to eject Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) from power.

Though alliances with the Left Party at state level are common – such as in the city-state of Berlin – senior SPD figures have always been been united in their opposition to sharing power at federal level with the heirs to the former East Germany’s ruling communist party. No longer.

“We have to take seriously the will of voters,” said Ms Dreyer, state premier in Rhineland Palatinate. “If there is a majority left of the centre then we have to find what we have in common.”

She said it was the SPD’s ambition to lead a three-way alliance with the Left Party and the Greens. But she admitted her party was in a desolate state at federal level after losing yet another leader in June after just a year in the job.

Strategic effort

Ms Dreyer’s remarks appear to be a strategic effort on two fronts.

First, to liven up an otherwise sedate race for the SPD leadership – possibly the most poisonous chalice in German politics.

Second, to keep on board the Green Party, which is flirting with the idea of dumping its traditional coalition partner to join the CDU in power.

But it remains to be seen if an SPD openness to a three-way left-wing alliance will boost its appeal to voters. Recent polls have it on just 11.5 per cent, almost half of its worst-ever federal election result in 2017.

Ms Dreyer admitted the Left Party held positions at odds with the SPD – it wants Germany to leave Nato and opposes all foreign military intervention – but she suggested coalition horse-trading and the promise of power could encourage pragmatism on all sides.

“Some are non-negotiable for us but coalition partners are never the same as oneself,” she said. “One has to find agreement.”

Her overtures on Thursday were welcomed by the Left Party, which had all but given up wooing the SPD – now in its third grand coalition with the CDU since 2005.

“After the years in the grand coalition the voices are growing in the SPD who want a left politics,” said Bernd Riexinger, Left Party co-leader.

He specified his party’s conditions for joining a coalition: €12 minimum wage; guaranteed pensions above the poverty line; affordable housing; a fair tax system; overhaul of the welfare system; and “real peace politics” – without mentioning Nato directly.

Ms Dreyer’s remarks will give her party plenty to talk about in a series of upcoming regional conferences to choose a new leader.

Together with SPD and Left Party, a Green-led left coalition has the makings of a parliamentary majority with 44 per cent support in polls.