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Monday, September 28, 1998 Published at 10:39 GMT 11:39 UK

World: Europe

Strong showing for ex-communists

PDS deputy chair Sylvia Kaufmann: a victory for the east

BBC Berlin correspondent Janet Barrie: Night of the PDS
The former German communist party PDS is savouring its surprisingly good showing in Sunday's elections.

The PDS won 5.1% of the vote, up 0.7% from the previous elections, but enough to ensure it will have 35 MPs in the Lower House of the Parliament -the Bundestag.

Gregory Gysi: "For my taste [Mr Schröder's] politics are too centrist, to put it cautiously"
"It was a great success for us," said the Party's parliamentary leader, Gregor Gysi.

The PDS "will be there to remind [the government] of their election promises, and that it is a sensible type of support," he said.

The PDS was standing against the SPD in the former communist east, aiming to win three direct seats in its Berlin stronghold. In the end, it won four, although PDS leader Lothar Bisky failed to win a seat.

PDS's new MPs will be Gregor Gysi; Christa Luft, the party economist; trade unionist Manfred Mueller; and teacher Petra Pau.

Correspondents described Ms Pau's election as surprising. She outseated Wolfgang Thierse, the SPD leader in the former East Germany.

Derided in the west

Sylvia Kaufmann of the PDS: We're no longer second-class citizens
The party appeared to have defied opinion polls over the past few months which had suggested the reformed communists of eastern Germany would fail to get back into the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament.

Mainstream politicians in Bonn have derided the PDS as the remnants of the anti-democratic East German regime.

But many east Germans feel the PDS better represents their interests in a political system dominated by westerners.

[ image: Disenchantment in the East with western politicians]
Disenchantment in the East with western politicians
The PDS was born from the ruins of the Socialist Unity party of late East German leader Erich Honecker.

Eight years ago, in the first elections after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the former ruling party was nearly wiped out.

In the October 1994 election, the PDS only won 4.4% of the vote. But it slipped into parliament by winning four out of the five east Berlin constituencies.

The PDS has capitalised on despair over massive unemployment and bitterness at the slow pace of east Germany's redevelopment.

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