September 13, 2014 / 2:48 PM / in 3 years

Merkel warns SPD to shun coalition with Left in eastern state

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during the budget debate in the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, in Berlin, September 10, 2014. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

APOLDA Germany (Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel warned the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), her junior partners in national government, against forming a coalition to install the first hardline Left party regional premier after Sunday polls in the eastern state of Thuringia.

“There’s something strange happening in Thuringia,” Merkel said, referring to speculation the SPD might switch allegiances in Thuringia, where they are now junior partners in a similar grand coalition as at the national level in Berlin, and join a coalition with the Left.

In an unusually blunt campaign speech in the town of Apolda, Christian Democrat (CDU) leader Merkel told the SPD it would be unfaithful to its traditions if it joined forces with the Left to elect the first Left party state premier in united Germany.

“There’s a big national party here, the SPD, with a proud history nationally. But before this state election, they’re signaling that no matter how strong the CDU is they’d rather join up with the Left. That’s incredible. Who would have thought that? A big, proud party like the SPD is making itself small.”

Thuringia was a part of the former communist East Germany.

Merkel, who normally does not intervene in the policies of other parties, also warned the ecologist Greens in Thuringia against joining a possible Left-SPD-Greens alliance in the state, telling about 2,000 people at the rally that the Greens would betray their traditions in the formerly communist east.

“The Greens emerged 25 years ago from the ‘democracy now’ movement and now they want to help the Left party form a coalition,” she said. “Karl Marx is to be carried into offices of the state government. That just can’t be possible.”

Merkel was also referring to the SPD’s history - a forerunner called the SAD (Socialist Workers Party) was founded in the Thuringian town of Gotha in 1861. Many traditional SPD supporters here are leery of the Left party due to the forced merger in Communist East Germany of the SPD and the Communist KPD party into the SED (or Socialist Unity Party) in 1946.

Opinion polls show Merkel’s CDU, who have ruled in Thuringia for the last 24 years with different coalitions, leading on 36 percent, the Left is on 26 percent, the SPD 16 percent and the Greens on 6 percent.

The euroskeptic AfD (Alternative for Germany) party is at about 8 percent but none of the parties would form a coalition with the AfD. Either another CDU-SPD coalition or a Left-SPD-Greens coalition are the two possible outcomes on Sunday.

“The opinion polls show that we’ve got different possible options,” the SPD leader in Thuringia, Heike Taubert, said.

The SPD has formed several coalitions at the state level with the Left party in eastern Germany and currently rules with the Left in Brandenburg. The SPD and Left had also formed coalitions in the past in the city-state of Berlin, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and in Saxony-Anhalt.

But the SPD has never before been junior coalition partners to the Left party and if they were to help elect a Left party candidate as state premier in Thuringia it could cause tension in Merkel’s grand coalition with the SPD at the national level.

Such a three-way left-leaning coalition with the SPD, Left and Greens could serve for the first time as a test for a similar coalition one day at the national level that many leftists want - although Left party policies, especially its anti-NATO stance, make that unlikely any time soon.

Additional reporting by Elke Buscher; Writing by Erik Kirschbaum; editing by Ralph Boulton

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