German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there’s a danger that the opposition Social Democrats and the Greens may break an election pledge not to ally with the anti-capitalist Left Party in a bid to take power.
Merkel said the vote “will be very close” in a speech at a rally in Dusseldorf yesterday, marking the start of the final two weeks of campaigning before Sept. 22 elections.
“To those who want to be sure that there won’t be experiments, that there won’t be an attempt to make red-red-green a reality somehow, I say: give all your votes to the Christian Democratic Union,” said Merkel, who’s also chairman of the CDU. Red-red-green are the colors of Germany’s SPD, the Left Party and the Greens. The Left will today announce its terms for joining an alliance with the SPD and Greens.
Merkel’s CDU has relied so far on the chancellor’s high approval ratings to campaign for a repeat of their coalition with the pro-business Free Democrats. Now, the party is sounding the alarm over a possible Social Democrat-led coalition that includes the Left Party, the successor to former East Germany’s communists.
In a weekly Emnid poll for Bild am Sonntag newspaper yesterday, support for the CDU and its CSU Bavarian sister party rose one percentage point to 40 percent, while their FDP coalition partner fell one point to 5 percent. The SPD gained two points to 25 percent while the Green party held at 11 percent. The Left Party lost a point to 9 percent.
While Merkel’s coalition had 45 percent support to 36 percent for the SPD and Greens, that nine percentage-point lead disappears if the Left Party is included. Bild didn’t provide details on the poll’s margin of error.
Fifty percent of those polled said they want Merkel as chancellor compared with 35 percent who favored her SPD challenger, Peer Steinbrueck. While Merkel’s popularity dropped two points, Steinbrueck’s increased seven points.
Steinbrueck and the rest of the SPD’s leadership rule out a national coalition with the Left, yet there are precedents for cooperation at regional level. The state of Brandenburg is governed by an SPD-Left coalition and in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, the SPD’s Hannelore Kraft ran a minority coalition with the Greens with Left Party support until she won a majority in elections in May last year.
“There is a great danger that the SPD would enter such an alliance, if it were mathematically possible,” Brandenburg CDU leader Michael Schierack said in a Sept. 3 interview in Potsdam. “Steinbrueck could build a bridge for such a coalition and then serve as SPD leader in parliament in order to save face.” It would also be possible that an SPD-Green minority government would agree to be tolerated by the Left, Schierack said.
The Left Party wants to nationalize all “large” banks as well as the energy, water, transport and telecommunications industries. It calls for banning hedge funds and private equity companies in Germany and forbidding speculation linked to agricultural products. It says all natural resources must be held by the state.
A 5 percent annual “wealth tax” should be imposed on private holdings worth more than 1 million euros ($1.3 million), according to the Left’s program. Corporate tax and inheritance tax must be raised, the party says. On foreign policy, the Left wants to liquidate the NATO alliance and halt all German foreign military operations.
Steinbrueck, after a Sept. 5 summit of SPD and Green state leaders that included Kraft and Baden-Wuerttemberg’s Greens Prime Minister Winfried Kretschmann, clearly rejected a red-red-green coalition after the Sept. 22 election.
At the same time he did not rule out such an alliance permanently. “Democratic parties must in principle be capable of forming coalitions,” Steinbrueck said.
“If the Left Party dumps its Marxist past and embraces democratic socialism, then it will be well-placed to serve as the SPD’s left wing,” said Christian Boeker, 57, a voter from Potsdam who plans to back Merkel’s CDU.
Steinbrueck, Merkel’s first-term finance minister, says the chancellor failed to address the rich-poor gap as the economy rebounded, while forcing too many spending cuts on the euro area as the debt crisis spread from Greece.
Merkel is campaigning on her record of tackling the debt crisis as well as her stewardship of the Germany economy, with joblessness near a two-decade low and the budget balanced. Her assertion that SPD and Greens plans to raise taxes on the wealthier would harm the economy is disputed by Steinbrueck, who says a majority of voters would be better off and the extra revenue would be used to employ more teachers.