Left Party in Germany demands higher taxes, big spend

Germany's Left party called Saturday for an increase in corporate and high-income taxation, with delegates to a party congress calling for the government to put 500,000 new employees in jobs, dpa reported.

At the annual congress in Cottbus, eastern Germany, the Left also re-elected the party's co-leaders, Oskar Lafontaine and former communist Lothar Bisky, for two more years with 79 and 81 per cent of votes respectively in a yes-no choice.

Lafontaine, who was once leader of the German Social Democratic Party, has said he expects to become sole Left leader from 2010 onwards.

The Left is in opposition at federal level, but is part of a coalition government in one of Germany's 16 states, Berlin.

The Left adopted Saturday as party policy a 50-billion-euro (77-billion-dollar) supplementary annual spending programme partly drafted by Lafontaine, who was a state premier and German finance minister before his swerve to the left.

Delegates said that using the new taxes to subsidize jobs in education, health care and cleaning up the environment would be an investment in the future. Operating as a loose union, the Left won 9 per cent of the vote at the last German general election in 2004.

The party was formally established a year ago, combining eastern German leftists with their roots in the old communist party and western German leftists like Lafontaine who had turned their backs on the Social Democratic party.

The party's foreign policy spokesman in parliament, Wolfgang Gehrcke, declared Saturday sympathy with the Colombian rebel group FARC, and said the Left would be demanding that the European Union (EU) stop describing FARC as terrorist.

He said the Left disapproved of the FARC taking hostages such as former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt. He would encourage the FARC to release them and seek negotiations with the government in Bogota.

The news magazine Der Spiegel had reported earlier Saturday that evidence of Gehrcke's links with FARC had been captured by the Colombian military. FARC partly finances itself by drug-running and crime.

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