Reform communists takes control of German state for first time

BERLIN - The reform communist Left party won control of a German state on Friday for the first time since the end of the Cold War when the regional assembly in Thuringia elected the Left's Bodo Ramelow as state premier.

The Left party, which traces its roots to Erich Honecker's Socialist Unity Party (SED) that built the Berlin Wall, will rule the sparsely populated state with the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens in a new three-way coalition.

The first-ever Left-SPD-Greens coalition could cause turbulence in Chancellor Angela Merkel's grand coalition at the national level because her junior partners, the SPD, have made clear they are ready for an SPD-Greens-Left coalition from 2017.

Thuringia is one of Germany's 16 states. The Left party is popular in the former communist east and is one of five parties to rule in the 16 states alongside Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), the Christian Social Union (CSU), the SPD, and Greens.