The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Voters push communists back to the wall

Berlin, Sept. 23 (Reuters): The Berlin Wall, RIP 1989. The descendants of the Communists who built it might be destined to join the rubble of the Wall on the ash heap of history.

Yesterday’s German election showed voters nearly evenly divided between the Social Democrats and the conservatives, but they agreed on one thing: they do not want the reformed Communist Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) around any more.

Initial results showed the PDS with four per cent support, below the five per cent needed to stay in parliament where they have served since 1990, the year of German reunification.

“The result is clearly a heavy blow for the PDS,” parliamentary leader Roland Claus told ARD television. “With our programme, personalities and presentation we clearly were not able to mobilise our voters.”

For years, the PDS enjoyed a loyal base of mostly elderly voters weaned on Communism in East Germany, an authoritarian ally of the Soviet Union on the front lines of the Cold War.

Yet it has failed to make inroads in the west of Germany and has struggled to attract younger voters.

It positions itself as a voice of social justice and brings together a mix of diehard communists, pacifists and easterners frustrated by 12 years of free-market unity. Earlier this year, the PDS appeared to be on the rise.

It became a junior partner in the Berlin state government and its most charismatic member, Gregor Gysi, became the capital’s economy minister.

In April, it also embarrassed the Social Democrats by coming in second in a regional election in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, behind the conservatives. But in August Gysi resigned in a scandal over official perks and the party struggled with what many analysts called drab leadership to attact voters.

“It is frightening how important personalities have become in this election campaign and how they have dominated over the issues,” Gysi said.

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