Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

German Social Democrats Gamble on Risky Coalition Needing a Boost before Nationwide Elections, SPD Joins with Former Communists in Saxony-Anhalt

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

German Social Democrats Gamble on Risky Coalition Needing a Boost before Nationwide Elections, SPD Joins with Former Communists in Saxony-Anhalt

Article excerpt

LISTENING to the rhetoric of German politicians these days, it is as if the cold war never ended.

Leaders of the major German parties are once again sniping at each other over the question of how to treat Communists, or more specifically in this case former Communists.

The row is the immediate result of a high-risk political gamble taken by Germany's main opposition party, the Social Democrats. The SPD's popularity has been stagnating, and party leaders - needing to regain momentum before national elections in October - are trying new ideas to attract voters.

The political experiment is taking place in Saxony-Anhalt, one of the five states that used to comprise East Germany, where the Social Democrats have joined with the eco-leftist Alliance `90-Green Party to form a government, although together they don't control a majority in the state legislature.

That means the minority coalition must depend on the support of the Party of Democratic Socialism, the former East German Communist Party, if it is to be viable.

The SPD's action likely won't sit well with a large segment of the German electorate, conservative by nature and wary of anything connected to Communism. The question is: Can the move rally more undecided voters to the SPD than it alienates?

The SPD needs to convince voters that it possesses the determination to win in October by governing in Saxony-Anhalt without the help of the Christian Democrats. The operating belief is that a large segment of voters are reluctant to cast ballots for the SPD in national elections because they are not convinced the party is prepared to wield power.

In Bonn, leaders of the conservative Christian Democrat-led government sense that instead of igniting a political comeback, the SPD is damaging its October election hopes. The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) charges the SPD with tacitly cooperating with the former Communists in Saxony-Anhalt, labeling such action political treachery.

With an eye toward the elections, the governing coalition is promoting the scare-tactic of "Reds on the Rhine" - ready to undermine the federal government in Bonn, achieving through chicanery today what they could not accomplish with intimidation during the cold war. …

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