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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09BERLIN759 2009-06-24 14:17:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Berlin
Cable title:  

GERMANY'S LEFT PARTY CONTINUES TO MARGINALIZE

Tags:   PGOV PINR PREL GM 
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PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHRL #0759/01 1751417
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 241417Z JUN 09
FM AMEMBASSY BERLIN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4429
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
					C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BERLIN 000759 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/24/2019
TAGS: PGOV PINR PREL GM
SUBJECT: GERMANY'S LEFT PARTY CONTINUES TO MARGINALIZE
ITSELF WITH EXTREME POSITIONS ON FOREIGN POLICY AND THE
ECONOMY

Classified By: Acting Political Section Chief William Moeller for reaso
ns 1.4 (B) and (D).



1. (C) SUMMARY: Germany's radical Left Party launched its
electoral campaign manifesto at its June 20-21 national party
convention in Berlin with a palette of predictable pacifist
foreign policy and anti-capitalist domestic appeals that
almost guarantee it will continue to remain on the political
sidelines after the election. The party is viewed as a
pariah by the four other major national parties and has
almost no chance of being invited to join any of the possible
coalitions. Its platform calls for the dissolution of NATO
and its replacement with a new European security structure
that includes Russia, and the end of all foreign deployments
of Germany's military forces, including in Afghanistan. On
domestic issues, it is campaigning on a anti-neoliberal,
anti-capitalist platform, calling for a minimum wage of 10
euros ($14), the abolition of Germany's welfare reforms, a
redistribution of wealth from "top to bottom," and the
nationalization of the private banking and utility systems.
There was a surprising absence of ideological debate in a
party cobbled together from disparate elements due to deft
preparations and the leadership skills of the Left Party
Chairmen Oskar Lafontaine and charismatic Gregor Gysi. END
SUMMARY.

LET'S COME TOGETHER RIGHT NOW, IN SWEET HARMONY?



2. (C) The Left Party opened its 2009 convention up against
the widespread expectation that the party would descend into
ideological warfare, laying bare the party's ongoing fissures
to the public. The Left's poor results in the EU Parliament
elections (7.5 percent), high-level political defections over
the party's direction, and its failure to capitalize on
Germany's economic and financial malaise in the polls
presaged heated debate. But both Left Party Chairmen Oskar
Lafontaine and Gregor Gysi used the political bully pulpit to
enforce strict party unity at the expense of some unhappy
party delegates from the communist wing who had pushed for
even more radical, anti-capitalist language. The party
leadership also avoided exposing divisions between
fundamentalists and pragmatists over the party's future
course.

A LOOK AT THE LEFT PARTY'S CAMPAIGN MANIFESTO



3. (SBU) Lafontaine cast his party as the true protectors of
workers, pensioners and social welfare recipients. He called
for an increase in welfare payments and the abolition of the
Hartz IV welfare system. The party platform includes
initiatives for the nationalization of private banks, a
standard hourly minimum wage of 10 euros, and a reversal of
the decision by conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel's
government to extend the retirement age from 65 to 67. In
addition, the manifesto calls for annual investments of 100
billion euros ($139.2 billion) for health care, education,
climate protection, and infrastructure and 100 billion euros
in annual state spending to help firms develop social and
environmental programs with the aim of creating two million
new public sector jobs. On the controversial issue of tax
reform, the Left wants a "redistribution from the top to the
bottom," including a "millionaire's tax" on private wealth,
an inheritance tax, and a stock market turnover tax.



4. (SBU) On foreign and security policy, the Left Party used
its party convention to reinforce its reputation as Germany's
anti-war party. The platform calls for the withdrawal of all
German military forces from Afghanistan and elsewhere around
the world and the abolition of NATO in favor of a collective
European security system which includes Russia. While
earning great applause from conference delegates, these
positions make it difficult for other parties to even
consider a coalition agreement with the Left Party in the
near future. The Left Party's Head of International
Relations and future MEP, Helmut Scholz, told PolOffs that
these measures, especially the withdrawal of German troops
from Afghanistan, were very popular with the party base. The
Left Party's Vice-Chairman and Minister-President candidate
for Thuringia, Bodo Ramelow, told PolOffs that the Left's
anti-war/peace message would feature at the very top of the
party's electoral campaign.

KEPT AT ARM'S LENGTH



5. (SBU) The Left Party is not viewed as a viable coalition
partner by any of the other parties, including the SPD.
Lafontaine expressed his frustration at the convention,
noting: "We are not refusing to cooperate in government. It
is the SPD which made the foolish decision not to cooperate
with us and in so doing threw its own party program in the

BERLIN 00000759 002 OF 002


rubbish bin." SPD Chairman Franz Muentefering, speaking in
Munich, stressed that there is no way his party will form a
national coalition with them (the Left Party). "Whoever
votes for the Left must know that it is for the opposition,"
he said. The SPD ruled out a coalition with the Left Party
mainly because of its hard-line foreign policy calling for
Germany to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan and for the
creation of a European security system that includes Russia
and replaces NATO. Absent any obvious political allies in
Germany's political landscape, the Left Party can only hope
that a strong result in September can prevent a center-right
CDU/CSU-FDP coalition or a repeat of the "Grand Coalition."

COMMENT



6. (C) The Left Party and its leadership may have checked
political dissension in the ranks for the time being -- at
least until the parliamentary elections -- but the question
is for how long? Andre Brink, a disgruntled member of the
pragmatists in the Left Party, told the leftist TAZ newspaper
that the party would remain "dominated by ideologues
(fundamentalists) who do not know how to formulate policy and
by reformers (pragmatists) who cannot think strategically at
party conferences." Left Party pragmatists criticize Oskar
Lafontaine's cult of personality but know that attacking him
is akin to committing political suicide. Despite the Left
Party's projection of unity after the party's convention, it
remains deeply divided. The Party's inability to capitalize
in the polls from Germany's economic malaise suggests the
party has been unsuccessful -- to the great surprise of
political analysts -- in finding a formula for addressing the
needs of its constituencies. The Left Party temporarily
closed a few political wounds at the conference, but that
unity is likely to be short-lived.
Koenig