Much of Germany's political establishment has spent the three years since the establishment of the Left Party lambasting the party for being little more than a remnant of former East Germany's communist party, the SED. This week, a representative in the state parliament of Lower Saxony, who has the Left Party to thank for her seat, seems out to prove just how right that analysis really is.
Politicians from across the political spectrum are demanding that Christel Wegner, a member of the German Communist Party -- but in parliament as an add-on to the Left Party list -- resign her newly won post. The reason? Just a few weeks into her job, she said on television that the dreaded East German secret police -- the Stasi -- was useful to protect the state from "reactionary forces" and that the Berlin Wall was built to keep West Germans out of East Germany.
"I think that when one builds a new societal form," she said in reference to the Stasi, "then one needs such an organ because one has to protect oneself from other forces, reactionary forces, that look for opportunities to weaken a state from the inside." She went on to say that "the construction of the Wall was, in any case, a measure taken to prevent West Germans from continuing to come into East Germany."
The Left Party is now doing what it can to repair the damage, with a number of party leaders emphasizing that Wegner's comments are "unacceptable" and criticizing the local party chapter in Lower Saxony for allowing her to be on the list in the first place. They did so, apparently, because Wegner endorsed the party during the campaign.
Germany's established political parties have long been wringing their hands in frustration at the slow -- but seemingly inexorable -- rise of the Left Party. The party stems from the 2005 marriage of the PDS, a post-communist party popular in former East Germany, and WASG, a left-leaning group that splintered off from the Social Democrats (SPD) during the administration of former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, partially in response to the welfare reforms his party introduced.
In the autumn 2005 elections, the party won 8.7 percent of the vote, eating into the Social Democrats' total enough to pave the way for Chancellor Angela Merkel to take the helm. Even more worrisome for the center-left SPD, though, are the advances the Left Party has made in recent state elections -- the leftists managed to jump the 5 percent hurdle in both Hesse and Lower Saxony. Given the SPD's stated refusal to form a governing coalition with the Left Party (though such a coalition governs in Berlin), the SPD's path to power has become more difficult.
The conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) were out Friday to remind the SPD of that pledge. It has once again become clear, CDU spokesman Ronald Pofalla told mass-circulation daily Bild Zeitung, "where the Left Party comes from. For the SPD, the meaning is clear: no more waffling when it comes to the Left Party." Other CDU politicians have demanded that the Left Party remove her from parliament.