Since 2005, a new party is stirring up the political landscape in Germany: The populist, socialist Left Party. It originated from a fusion of the reformed East German, formerly communist state party PDS and a small West German party (WASG) formed by defectors from the moderate, center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), who left their party in protest against Chancellor Schröder's (SPD) alledgedly "neo-liberal" reforms of the unemployment support system in 2004. In the 2005 elections, this new alliance won 8.7% of the votes, and it became the 4th strongest party in the German parliament. Because neither center-right Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) nor SPD were willing to form a coalition with the Left Party, the result was Chancellor Merkel's (CDU) "Great Coalition" of both large parties from left and right (SPD and CDU/CSU). So the Left Party has already had significant influence on German politics, by blocking both a center-right or center-left coalition, forcing left and right into a common coalition. The Left Party's strongest base is in East Germany, with results of between 16% and 28% of the votes on state level -- in West Germany, it stayed below 5% and thus did not enter any state parliament, with one exception (the tiny state of Bremen, where the Left Party won 8.4%). But since a very prominent West German politician has become co-chairman of the Left Party, this may change: Oskar Lafontaine was chairman of the SPD from 1995 to 1999 and Finance Minister in Chancellor Schröder's (SPD) first government from november 1998 to may 1999. In may 1999, Lafontaine surprisingly resigned from both offices, because he was no longer willing to support Schröder's alledgedly "neo-liberal", business-friendly policies. In 2004, he finally left the SPD and joined the defectors to the Left Party. With popular Lafontaine's support, the Left Party is now hoping to enter the West German state parliaments as well, in the upcoming elections. Since one of the founding parties of the Left Party was the formerly communist East German state party, the Left Party has been attacked for crimes of the communist regime: Most important, the firing order on people attempting to cross the border to West Germany. Hundreds of people were shot at the German-German border between 1961 and 1989. The Left Party's reactions are mixed: Lafontaine now accused the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) of hypocrisy: "If the allegiation of the Berlin Wall murders is accurate, it also hits the CDU!", he said. That is because the West German CDU united with the CDU in East Germany in 1990, which had been a puppet alibi party of the communist regime. Also, Lafontaine attacked Chancellor Merkel's (CDU) past as member of the East German communist youth organisation FDJ: "Concerning Ms Merkel: I did not wear the FDJ shirt, she did. The CDU should better come to terms with their own past!" Lafontaine also attacked the practize of observing the Left Party by the Verfassungsschutz ("Office for Protection of the Constitution", German NSA) for potential anti-constitutional activities: "If there is a party that ought to be observed, it's the CDU!", Lafontaine said. Left Party co-chairman Lothar Bisky denied that such a general firing order at the German-German border even existed, but other Left Party members object: EU Parliament member André Brie said the order existed. And vice-chairman Katina Schubert said: "Shots were fired. Those were crimes. This cannot be euphemized." The Left Party in the West German state of Hesse had elected a former Communist Party member, Pit Metz, as chairman, but after he compared the firing order at the Berlin Wall to the army's regulations in Afghanistan, he was replaced by a more moderate candidate. source Left Party co-chairman Lafontaine openly sympathizes with Castro's Cuba and Chavez' Venezuela -- and he defends Chavez' policy of oppressing the media: "We need a democratization of the media in capitalist societies. There is the tragic error of assuming in Western states, the media is democratic. This is a huge misconception. They are free of influence by the state, yes, overwhelmingly. They are in the hands of the economy. And press is not free when it's in the hands of economy." Lafontaine also called the leaders of the G8 nations "the real top-terrorists on this world". When Lafontaine argued against the "War on Terror", he claimed "capitalism is bearing war like clouds are bearing rain". source Lafontaine does not conceal his sympathy for Chavez: "We want to contribute to the establishment of a 21th century socialism and thus support the attempts at socialism in South America." source What do you think? Would you like to have such a party in your countries as well?