Members of former East Germany's ruling communist party could emerge as a powerful force in Sunday polls.
Some 20 years ago, Vera Lengsfeld, then a student at East Berlin's Humboldt University, was plucked from a small group of protesters by the dreaded Stasi secret police and, within days, stripped of her citizenship and deported to the United Kingdom.
Her crime: On the fringes of the annual state-sponsored demonstration honoring old-school communists Rosa Luxembourg and Karl Liebknecht, Ms. Lengsfeld and friends carried a banner bearing a quote from Luxembourg: "Freedom is Always the Freedom to Dissent."
As it turned out, Lengsfeld returned to Berlin on Nov. 9, 1989, the day the Berlin Wall fell, and was elected to parliament first for the left-wing Greens and then the conservative Christian Democrats.
But as German voters head to the polls this Sunday to elect state legislatures in Hesse and Lower Saxony, Lengsfeld is troubled by the polls. The rag-tag band of surviving members of former East Germany's ruling communist party could emerge as a formidable, possibly decisive force. The party, now simply called The Left after merging last year with an alliance of west German leftists, has regrouped to become the third-largest political force in unified Germany. A year before the campaign for the next national elections gets under way in 2009, these provincial state polls will be a test of power for Germany's new left – and set the country's political agenda.
Lengsfeld is filled with anger. "It's just absurd," she says. "We thought they were so discredited that no one would ever vote for them again."