Berlin/Apolda, Germany: German Chancellor Angela Merkel faces a challenge for power by the communist successor party 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall as two eastern German states hold elections on Sunday.
While Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) became the east’s dominant force after Helmut Kohl reunified Germany in 1990, polls suggest the anti-capitalist Left party is poised to take power in a state for the first time in Thuringia, ousting the CDU. Brandenburg, which surrounds Berlin, is also voting. Projections based on exit polls are due at 6.00pm Berlin time.
Merkel, Germany’s first chancellor from the ex-communist east, used seven campaign trips to the region in September to take on Alternative for Germany, the anti-euro, law-and-order party that polls suggest will enter both state parliaments. She also warned the Social Democrats, her coalition partner in Berlin, against enabling a Left-led government in Thuringia.
“It’s beyond belief," Merkel, 60, said at her final rally in the Thuringian town of Apolda yesterday. “We want to see an economic policy that really creates jobs, not one that brings Karl Marx into the state premier’s office."
Ousting the CDU from power in Thuringia, where Merkel’s party has governed since the Wall fell, is within reach for Bodo Ramelow, a western German with a labour background who is the Left’s lead candidate. He aims to replace Christine Lieberknecht, a Merkel ally who has run the state since 2009.
The Left’s calls for nationalizing banks and an upper limit on income resonate with voters in the east, where prosperity still lags west German levels. Shut out at the national level since reunification, the party has broadened its support with positions such as trimming the state administration and hiring teachers.
The CDU has 36% support in Thuringia, with the Left 10 percentage points behind, according to an FG Wahlen poll for ZDF television published 12 September. That may be enough for the Left to form a government with the Social Democrats and Greens.
In Brandenburg, the poll suggests voters will give another five years to the Social Democrat-led state government with the Left as junior partner, leaving the CDU in opposition. The 10-11 September poll of about 1,000 people per state has a margin of error of as many as three percentage points.
Alternative of Germany, known as AfD, won seats in a state assembly for the first time two weeks ago in the eastern state of Saxony, prompting Merkel to publicly recognize the party as a threat. Found last year, the AfD has 8% support in Thuringia and 9.5% in Brandenburg, according to ZDF.
“The AfD is pulling voters from all parties, Saxony showed that," Oskar Niedermayer, a political scientist at Berlin’s Free University, said in an interview on 11 September. “But given the dynamics, they’re pulling away CDU voters most strongly." Bloomberg