Shortly after the poll results were announced last Sunday and the Linkspartei achieved its goal of reentering the Bundestag, Oskar Lafontaine said:"Willy Brandt hat von der Mehrheit links von der Mitte gesprochen: Diese Mehrheit ist jetzt da." (Willy Brandt spoke of the majority being left of center. The majority is now here.) And, indeed, the numbers would indicate this:
34.3% (SPD) + 8.1% (Green) + 8.7% (Left) = 51.5%
So let's compare this to the poll results in the 2002 general election:
38.5% (SPD) + 8.6% (Green) + 4.0% (PDS) = 51.1%
Clearly the voters want a left-leaning government, and have rejected the neo-liberal platforms of both the CDU/CSU and FDP. So why can't there a coaltion of the three left of center parties?
I have written about the efforts of the media and the established parties to demonize Oskar Lafontaine and the Linkspartei. If anything, the efforts to marginalize the Linkspartei has only intensified since the election. Industry leaders have warned that including the Linkspartei in a governing coalition would wreck the German economy ("ein Schlag gegen den Wirtschaftsstandort Deutschland") and ruin "Germany's image in the world". And today new accusations were made that nine representatives of the LInkspartei were informants for the Stasi in the former DDR. All along the key operatives of the SPD and the Greens have ruled out cooperating with the Linkspartei because its political platform was "populistic" and "utopian".
But an objective comparison of the program advanced by the Linkspartei with those of the Greens and the SPD shows that there is much more that unites them then not: all three are ideologically opposed to American/anglo neo-liberal economic policies; they advocate a minimum income that would keep people above the poverty threshold; they want to increase the unemployment compensation; they want a highly progressive tax structure; on education, family policy and health care they are virtually indistinguishable. So why can't the three parties cooperate? The answer has more to do with egos than ideology. But also the make-up of the Linkspartei poses some challenges: it is a combination of an east German party with a strong regional identity and disgruntled unionists in the west who consider them selves more social-democratic than their former comrades in the SPD. Theoretically, the Greens could play a mediating role between the SPD and the LInkspartei if they chose to do so.
In any event, I strongly agree with the assessment of Wolfgang Lieb in the NachDenkSeiten that the coordinated effort to marginalize and demonize the Linkspartei is a further setback to east-west German integration. The voters in the east have made the Linkspartei the second most powerful political force. What does it mean to them and their understanding of democracy if they are going to be treated as outcasts?