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German president uneasy over ex-communist governor

November 2, 2014

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s president, a former East German pro-democracy activist, is voicing unease at the prospect of the nation getting its first state governor from a party with communist roots as it marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The Left Party’s Bodo Ramelow looks likely to emerge as governor of the eastern state of Thuringia in a three-party coalition following an inconclusive September election. His party, which descended partly from East Germany’s communist rulers, was previously only a junior partner in state governments.

“People who experienced East Germany and are of my age have to make quite an effort to accept this,” President Joachim Gauck, 74, said in an interview broadcast by ARD television Sunday, a week before the wall anniversary.

Those people respect the election results but also wonder whether the party has moved so far from the repressive ideas of the East German communists that it can be trusted fully, he added.

“There are parts of this party where I, like many others, have problems developing this trust,” Gauck said.

Germany’s president has a largely ceremonial role and generally stays above the political fray.

Still, relations between the Left Party and Gauck, who in the decade after reunification oversaw the files of East Germany’s secret police, the Stasi, have long been tense. It was the only party in parliament that opposed his presidential candidacy in 2012.

Left Party chairwoman Katja Kipping criticized Gauck’s comments, saying they were “not right for a president.”

“I reject in every way his doubts about the democratic attitude of our members and voters,” she told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

Ramelow’s installation as governor still depends on a membership ballot of his prospective center-left allies and a vote in the state legislature, where his coalition would have only a one-seat majority.

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