Trouble ahead for Merkel?

Oskar "The Red" Lafontaine, the polarizing leader of Germany Left party is stepping down to fight prostate cancer. Der Spiegel explains why this could be bad news for Angela Merkel’s Conservative coalition: Lafontaine’s departure has robbed the party of its biggest electoral asset and is set to provoke a power struggle between its pragmatic eastern ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
Sean Gallup/Getty Image
Sean Gallup/Getty Image
Sean Gallup/Getty Image

Oskar "The Red" Lafontaine, the polarizing leader of Germany Left party is stepping down to fight prostate cancer. Der Spiegel explains why this could be bad news for Angela Merkel's Conservative coalition:

Lafontaine's departure has robbed the party of its biggest electoral asset and is set to provoke a power struggle between its pragmatic eastern German wing and the more ideological westerners. It has also raised the likelihood of a broad-left wing "Red-Red-Green" alliance between the SPD, the Left Party and the Greens to challenge Angela's Merkel's center-right coalition in the 2013 general election, and in a string of regional state elections leading up to it.

Lafontaine, a populist who called former President George W. Bush a terrorist and questioned Western efforts to halt Iran's nuclear program, is a hate figure in the SPD because he abandoned the party in 1999, when he ditched his job as finance minister in a dispute with the SPD chancellor at the time, Gerhard Schröder. [...]

Oskar "The Red" Lafontaine, the polarizing leader of Germany Left party is stepping down to fight prostate cancer. Der Spiegel explains why this could be bad news for Angela Merkel’s Conservative coalition:

Lafontaine’s departure has robbed the party of its biggest electoral asset and is set to provoke a power struggle between its pragmatic eastern German wing and the more ideological westerners. It has also raised the likelihood of a broad-left wing "Red-Red-Green" alliance between the SPD, the Left Party and the Greens to challenge Angela’s Merkel’s center-right coalition in the 2013 general election, and in a string of regional state elections leading up to it.

Lafontaine, a populist who called former President George W. Bush a terrorist and questioned Western efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear program, is a hate figure in the SPD because he abandoned the party in 1999, when he ditched his job as finance minister in a dispute with the SPD chancellor at the time, Gerhard Schröder. […]

Media commentators say Lafontaine’s exit creates a power vacuum in the Left Party and removes an obstacle to Red-Red-Green alliances. But they warn that major policy differences remain between the SPD and Left Party, and that the SPD cannot expect a major rebound just because the Left Party’s heaviest hitter has quit the stage. The damage, commentators argue, has already been done.

Even with all the Left’s votes, a Red-Red-Green coalition still wouldn’t have beat the alliance between Merkel’s CDU and the pro-business Free Democrats in the last election, but given the fragility of Merkel’s coalition, this is certainly not welcome news.

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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