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SPD in Hesse pushes ahead with leftist alliance

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SPD in Hesse pushes ahead with leftist alliance
Has Ypsilanti's moment in the limelight come? Photo: DPA
11:53 CEST+02:00
Germany's centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) in the state of Hesse is in talks to form its first ever alliance in the west of the country with the hard-line socialist Left party that is fast becoming a force in national politics.

Social Democrats in Hesse state said late on Wednesday they would push for an alliance with The Left and with the Green Party to force out the current caretaker state government led by the conservative Christian Democrats.

An attempt in March at a tie-up with The Left in Hesse by local SPD head Andrea Ypsilanti failed because of opposition from a member of her parliamentary group. It was also fiercely opposed by the SPD at national level, where it is in a ruling "grand coalition" with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives. The dispute has been partly responsible for a sharp slide in the SPD's poll ratings.

But on Wednesday night, Ypsilanti was defiant in her decision to work with the leftists. “We'd be the first state party group that doesn't simply say exclude them, instead we'd make clear how we could accept their support,” Ypsilanti said.

Since its formation in 2007, the anti-capitalist Left party has shaken up Germany's political scene, establishing itself as the third largest party and a new force that the more established parties cannot ignore. It has tapped into public anger about rising poverty in Europe's most populous country, "fat cat" salaries for executives and the erosion of the welfare state to attract large swathes of disaffected voters.

The party, formed by ex-communists from the former East Germany and SPD defectors like Oskar Lafontaine - finance minister under former Chancellor

Gerhard Schröder - now holds seats in 10 of Germany's 16 state parliaments.

The regional seats are not only in economically despressed eastern Germany but also in four states in the wealthier west, including in the prosperous city-state of Hamburg. Unlike in the east though, the party is not part of any governing coalition

in any western state.

Fiercely pacifist, the party wants Germany to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and to haul Germany out of the NATO military alliance. It is also strongly eurosceptic.

Ypsilanti wants to complete the talks in October and the alliance will then be voted on in the local parliament in November or December.

afp/ddp

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