Schroeder rules out coalition with ex-communists

5th July 2005, Comments 0 comments

5 July 2005, BERLIN - Embattled German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, embroiled in an uphill fight to save his centre-left coalition, said Tuesday he will under no circumstances form a coalition with a far- leftwing alliance of socialists and former East German communists.

5 July 2005

BERLIN - Embattled German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, embroiled in an uphill fight to save his centre-left coalition, said Tuesday he will under no circumstances form a coalition with a far- leftwing alliance of socialists and former East German communists.

"I will never have anything to do with this strange grouping on the far left of the political spectrum. You can take that as a given," Schroeder said while formally unveiling his Social Democratic Party (SPD) platform for the planned September general election.

His remarks come after opinion surveys show that the grouping could garner more than 10 per cent in the election. Political analysts say that would doom any chance of Schroeder's SPD remaining in power with its junior coalition partners, the Greens.

Analysts predict meanwhile that such a development in the general election, likely to be held in September, might well result in the formation of a grand coalition headed by Christian Democrats with Schroeder's SPD as junior members.

The new far-left alliance is headed by former Schroeder cabinet member Oscar Lafontaine and Gregor Gysi, 57, long the most charismatic figure in the far-leftist Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), the reconstituted East German Communist Party. Lafontaine heads the new leftist party called the Labour and Social Election Alternative (WASG).

On Friday, Schroeder intentionally lost a parliamentary no- confidence vote which he called to achieve early elections.

A final decision on whether to allow the early vote must now be made by July 22 by President Horst Koehler. Germany's highest court will probably have to rule on whether the election can go ahead.

Schroeder Tuesday unveiled his party's platform, which in a revival of age-old Social Democratic parlance, is labelled a "manifesto".

Its main planks called for a tax aimed at the rich, a minimum wage to hinder cheap foreign labour and the creation of a national health system.

The Social Democrats also stress traditional social welfare expansion in their 37-page programme.

Contrasting the SPD, the opposition Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU) plans to increase VAT to 18 per cent if their candidate, Angela Merkel, wins the election.

At the same time, leaders of Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer's Greens party also met to finalise their election campaign.

The Greens were staking out leftist and environmentalist stances in clear demarcation to the new far-left grouping of former communists and disenchanted Social Democrats and Greens who are rallying around Lafontaine.

The rise of the new leftist alliance dominated deliberations by SPD leaders as they sought to re-establish themselves as the traditional party of grassroots working people. The SPD has suffered a string of humiliating election defeats in state after state in recent months.

Against that backdrop, the SPD campaign platform includes new subsidies for families with children so that living standards can be maintained if one parent takes time off work to stay at home. Under German law, a parent can take up to three years off after the birth of a child and be guaranteed their old job back on returning to work.

The election platform vows free child day-care to replace the current system in which places for young children are often difficult to obtain and can cost several hundred euros monthly in fees.

Health insurance remains a tough issue for the SPD, with the platform pledging creation a nationwide, one-size-fits-all 'citizens' insurance'.

SPD leaders plan a new tax aimed at the wealthy in Germany, according to the 'manifesto'.

Single people earning over EUR 250,000 annually and married couples with an annual income of more than EUR 500,000 will be asked to pay a yet to be determined surcharge, says the SPD. Inheritance tax will also be raised for larger sums.

DPA

Subject: German news

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