A left-wing party with communist roots now controls the levers of government in the German state of Thuringia, marking the first time a political party closely linked to East Germany’s communist leadership has gained power since German reunification in 1990.
The party is, appropriately enough, the Left Party, reports The Telegraph.
This week, the state parliament in Thuringia narrowly voted to authorize a new coalition with the Left Party at the helm. The three-way coalition also includes the Green Party.
The Left Party is viewed as the successor to the Socialist Unity Party which controlled East Germany when it was a dictatorship and a satellite of the Soviet Union.
Many of the Left Party’s current leaders grew up in East Germany. Critics charge that some of them were involved with the Stasi, East Germany’s brutal secret police.
“Many who were in prison in the GDR [East Germany] are very upset,” the director of the Stasi memorial in Berlin, Hubertus Knabe, said, according to The Telegraph. “They feel that the lessons of history have been forgotten.”
In his first speech to the new parliament, Thuringia’s new Left Party prime minister, Bodo Ramelow, apologized to people who suffered — or worse — under the yoke of East German communism. He also expressed his desire to “reconcile rather than divide.”
In Erfurt on Thursday, thousands of protesters took to the streets to protest the Left Party’s control of state government.
Both German Chancellor Angela Merkel, leader of the Christian Democratic Union, a moderate political party, and German President Joachim Gauck, a political independent, criticized the Left Party’s leadership in Thuringia. Merkel called it “bad news.”
Thuringia, located in central Germany, has some 2.3 million inhabitants and an area of 6,244 square miles — not too much bigger than Connecticut. The biggest city is Erfurt. Almost 70 percent of the population adheres to no religion. The bucolic region’s attractions include a Goethe museum and a Buchenwald concentration camp museum and memorial.
While both standards of living and political liberty have increased dramatically in East Germany since reunification, the part of Germany that was East Germany from 1949 to 1990 still lags considerably behind West Germany in gross domestic product per capita.
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