Germany's SPD in damage control mode

11th March 2008, Comments 0 comments

SPD leader is taking action over links with The Left party.

Berlin -- Kurt Beck, the leader of Germany's Social Democrats (SPD), sought to unite the party behind him and play down divisions over his recent approaches to The Left party.

Returning to active politics after a 14-day flu bout, Beck denied he had broken his word by giving the green light for the SPD to seek toleration deals with The Left at state level.

Ahead of the Jan. 24 elections in the western state of Hesse, Beck and SPD state leader Andrea Ypsilanti ruled out any kind of deal with the Left, seen in west Germany as linked to the communist regime of the defunct East Germany.

The inconclusive result in Hesse prompted Beck last month to change tack, opening the way to limited cooperation with The Left.

Ypsilanti then indicated she would seek election as premier in the secret April 5 vote in the state legislature, relying on the support of the six Left members.

"I can't see that I broke my word," Beck told journalists in Berlin Monday.

Beck said he would not pressure renegade SPD member of the Hesse legislature Dagmar Metzger to resign.

Metzger drew the wrath of the Hesse SPD last week after she made clear she would withdraw her support for Ypsilanti in the April 5 vote. Ypsilanti promptly withdrew her candidacy.

The debacle prompted uproar in the party, Germany's oldest political formation. Beck came under pressure, with some suggesting he should resign.

Previously SPD leaders had rejected any cooperation with The Left in the west, characterizing its members in western states as completely unreliable, although there have been deals in the eastern states, where The Left has its main support base.

And Beck Monday ruled out any cooperation with The Left at federal level, citing "irreconcilable differences" in financial, social and foreign policy.

Oskar Niedermayer, a political scientist at Berlin's Free University, said Beck had attempted a "damage control exercise."

But the conflict in the SPD was far from over, he said.

Niedermayer predicted the SPD's main opponent, Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), would revive the issue of Beck's credibility in the campaign for the next federal elections, which must be held by September 2009.

Beck is the obvious SPD champion in that election, although he repeated his stance Monday that a final decision would not be taken until close to the election.

Merkel currently heads a broad coalition combining her conservative Christian (CDU/CSU) bloc with the SPD as junior partner.

DPA with Expatica

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