Thousands of Germans marched in protest on Sunday against the possibility of the first hard-left government to rule a state since the collapse of the Berlin Wall exactly 25 years ago.
Around 4,000 protesters, who carried candles in imitation of the demonstrations against Communist East Germany in 1989, objected to the ushering into power of ‘The Left Party’ (Die Linke), reports theLocal.de.
Die Linke is seen by many as the successor to the Socialist Unity Party, the hard line Marxist-Leninist political force that ruled East Germany for over 40 years and brutally put down dissent with Russian tanks. Its critics say that the party doesn’t only continue the old monumental leftist politics of the Soviet bloc, but is actually a home for many former politicians and officials from before the fall of the Berlin wall.
The protests follow the hotly-contested state-level elections in September, which left no single party able to govern in Thuringa, and after which negotiations for a coalition began. After nearly two months of talks, a three-way red-red-green coalition of leftist parties is being formulated, displacing the Christian Democrats who, despite being the largest party, were unable to form a minority government. The composition of the coalition has proved extremely controversial, as hard-left politicians will take positions of power through Die Linke for the first time since the Cold War.
The Social Democrats (SPD), who are joining with Die Linke and the Greens to form the coalition, are being accused of betrayal, as despite their Marxist origins they are much like the British Labour party since it reformed and pursue ‘third way’ centre-left policies.
Many Die Linke members are former SPD members who left, disillusioned when the party reformed in the 1990s. During the election campaign, German Chancellor Angela Merkel appealed to voters not to vote Linke, saying people should not “let Karl Marx back into the state premier’s office”.
Although the protest was peaceful and good-natured, local police reported there was some trouble when a group of left-wing counter protesters arrived.
If the leadership of Die Linke in a local parliament is successful and leads to a thawing in relations between divergent left parties Linke and the SPD nationally, it could spell the end for government by the Christian Democrats nationally, as led by Chancellor Merkel.
Although the SPD and Linke had enough votes nationally to form a coalition government after the last national elections, the SPD chose not to on grounds of principle and decided instead to enter a grand coalition with their centre-right opponents, the Christian Democrats.