Cornelia Hildebrandt from the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation in Berlin captures the contradictions in DIE LINKE’s considerable potential,the various double binds it finds itself in, due to its mixed reality as a Volkspartei in the East and largely protest party in the West, along with the paradoxical implications of the crisis for the party. The statistical data help in forming an idea of the party’s reality.
DIE LINKE reached 11.9 % of the national vote in 2009, its best electoral results so far. It is now represented in the Bundestag with the largest group (76 deputies) so far. DIE LINKE is present in 13 of 16 regional parliaments and is in government in two federal states together with the Social Democrats. On the state level it has more parliamentarians than the Greens and the FDP and it has about 6,000 municipal elected officials. Also in comparison to other left parties in Europe, DIE LINKE is successful and strong, with the largest country delegation in the left grouping GUE/NGL in the European Parliament.
The party has more than 77,000 members. In the East German federal states it is a Volkspartei [major cross-class party] with 50,000 members and about 4,500 parliamentarians on the local level. Its electoral results constantly remain above 20 %. In the West German federal states the LINKE is above all a protest party with a large participation of trade-unionists. In the West German federal states it has electoral results between 5 and 8 %.
DIE LINKE has changed the party system, so that now Germany has a five-party system with an open competition between various coalition options for the Conservatives (CDU), for the Social Democrats (SPD), for the Greens and for the Liberals (FDP). This situation of open competition and the decreasing bonds of the two big parties, the CDU and SPD, [to their bases] makes possible new two- or three-party coalitions. This is a challenge and at the same time an opportunity for DIE LINKE, which has reintegrated the social question into the political system and so could profile itself as an independent part of a red-green project. DIE LINKE has influence on public discussion wherever minimum
wage, the continuation of neoliberal labor-market laws or pensions questions are discussed. At the same time it has hardly any influence on black-yellow (i.e. CDU and liberal) policies.
DIE LINKE is benefitting neither from the crisis, which it has analyzed and predicted long ago, nor from the weakness of the black-yellow coalition. On the contrary, DIE LINKE is stagnating in the opinion polls. It has to take care that its image of being the party of social justice does not fade away.