Left-wing Die Linke party MP Gregor Gysi took over as leader of the opposition when Germany’s two largest parties united in a “grand” coalition.
The ostensibly left-of-centre Social Democratic Party (SDP) ditched its principles in favour of throwing its support behind conservative leader Angela Merkel, shooing the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leader into a third term as chancellor.
She was elected by parliament’s lower house by a record majority of 462 votes to 150, with nine abstentions.
Given that the SDP and CDU have 504 seats, it is clear that 42 MPs on the government benches did not vote for her.
The CDU had previously governed in coalition with the Free Democrats – an almost-permanent fixture in federal governments of whatever main party for several decades – but they fell short of the 5 per cent hurdle to enter parliament in September’s vote.
Die Linke had been prepared to consider a coalition with the SDP and the Greens, but SDP leader Sigmar Gabriel kicked this idea into touch unceremoniously.
Mr Gabriel claimed that Die Linke’s refusal to vote for Afghan war apologist Joachim Gauck as president in 2010 showed it remained an extremist party.
His position was supported by a majority of SDP members in a ballot.
But many SDP members recall the disastrous result for the party that the 2005-9 “grand” coalition delivered.
Its vote plummeted in 2009, while Die Linke rose to 11.9 per cent, giving it 76 seats.
The SDP leader’s reward for his decision to put the interests of bankers before Germany’s workers is the vice-chancellorship, playing Nick Clegg to Ms Merkel’s David Cameron.
The only concession wrung from the CDU by the SDP is a national minimum wage.
However, there will be no change in Berlin’s iron-fisted insistence on imposing savage cuts in living standards for EU member states caught up in the debt crisis caused by the banks.
This is confirmed by the continued presence of CDU Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who has done the banks’ dirty work for them.
Photo: Truch drivers on Germany’s main thoroughfares carried banners declaring support for Die Linke, now the main opposition party in Germany. Flickr (CC)