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The Left
Die Linke
  • Janine Wissler
  • Martin Schirdewan
Deputy Chairpersons
  • Ates Gürpinar
  • Lorenz Gösta Beutin
  • Katina Schubert
  • Jana Seppelt
Secretary Harald Wolf
Founded 16 June 2007 (2007-06-16)
Merger of PDS
Headquarters Karl-Liebknecht-Haus Kleine Alexanderstraße 28 D-10178 Berlin
Think tank Rosa Luxemburg Foundation
Student wing Die Linke.SDS
Youth wing Left Youth Solid
Membership (2022) Decrease 54,214
Ideology Democratic socialism
Left-wing populism
Political position Left-wing
European affiliation Party of the European Left
European Parliament group The Left in the European Parliament – GUE/NGL
Colours      Red (official)
     Purple (customary)
28 / 736
4 / 69
State Parliaments
118 / 1,894
European Parliament
5 / 96
Heads of State Governments
1 / 16
Party flag
Flag of Die Linke.svg

^ A: A broad left-wing party, it has also been described as far-left by some news outlets.

The Left (German: Die Linke), commonly referred to as the Left Party (German: Die Linkspartei [diː ˈlɪŋkspaʁˌtaɪ]), is a democratic socialist political party in Germany. The party was founded in 2007 as the result of the merger of the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) and Labour and Social Justice – The Electoral Alternative. Through the PDS, the party is the direct descendant of the Marxist–Leninist ruling party of former East Germany, that being the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED). Since 2022, The Left's co-chairpersons have been Janine Wissler and Martin Schirdewan. The party holds 28 seats out of 736 in the Bundestag, the federal legislature of Germany, having won 4.9% of votes cast in the 2021 German federal election. Its parliamentary group is the second-smallest of seven in the Bundestag, and is headed by parliamentary co-leaders Heidi Reichinnek and Sören Pellmann.

The Left is represented in eight of Germany's sixteen state legislatures, including all five of the eastern states. As of 2021, the party participates in governments in the states of Bremen and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern as a junior partner, as well as in Thuringia, where it leads a coalition with the Social Democratic Party and The Greens headed by Minister-President Bodo Ramelow. The Left is a founding member of the Party of the European Left, and is the third-largest party in the European United Left–Nordic Green Left group in the European Parliament. In December 2022, The Left had 54,214 registered members, making it the sixth-largest party in Germany by membership. The Left promotes anti-capitalism, anti-fascism, and anti-militarism, and is neutral on European integration. It is the furthest left-wing party of the six represented in the Bundestag.

In late 2023, prominent member Sahra Wagenknecht and several supporters split from the party and formed Bündnis Sahra Wagenknecht, resulting in the dissolution of The Left's official faction in the Bundestag.



The main predecessor of The Left was the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), which emerged from the ruling Socialist Unity Party (SED) of East Germany (GDR). In October 1989, facing increasing unpopularity, the SED replaced long-time leader Erich Honecker with Egon Krenz, who began a program of limited reforms, including the legalisation of opposition groups. He also loosened restrictions on travel between East and West Berlin, which inadvertently led to the fall of the Berlin Wall. The SED gave up its "leading role" in November, and Krenz resigned soon afterward. He was succeeded by Gregor Gysi, part of a group of reformers who supported the Peaceful Revolution. His ally Hans Modrow, the new Chairman of the Council of Ministers, became the de facto national leader.

Seeking to change its image, the party expelled most of its former leadership, including Honecker and Krenz; the new government negotiated with opposition groups and arranged free elections. By the time of a special congress in mid-December, the SED was no longer a Marxist-Leninist party. It added Party of Democratic Socialism to its name, dropping the SED portion in February. The PDS oriented itself as pro-democratic, socialist, and supportive of East German sovereignty. The party chose Modrow as its lead candidate for the 1990 East German general election but was decisively defeated, finishing in third place with 16.4% of votes cast. The PDS was excluded from further political developments due to the aversion of the opposition, now in power, which considered it essentially tied to the Communist regime despite its change of name.

After debuting with a meagre 2.4% nationwide in the 1990 German federal election immediately after reunification, the PDS gained popularity throughout the 1990s as a protest party in the eastern states. In the 1998 German federal election it won 5.1% of votes, enough to win seats outright without relying on direct constituencies as it had in 1994. By the 2000s, it was the second-largest party in every eastern state legislature except Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Despite electoral successes, the PDS faced internal strife due to ideological disputes, a chronic decline in membership, and a near-complete lack of support in the western states, which has been home to 85% of Germany's population. The 1994 German federal election also saw a "red socks" campaign used by the centre-right, including the CDU/CSU and the Free Democratic Party (FDP), to scare off a possible red–red–green coalition (SPD–PDS–Greens). Analysts have stated that such a strategy likely paid off, as it was seen as one of the decisive elements for the narrow victory of Kohl for the CDU/CSU–FDP. The campaign was criticized as an obvious attempt to discredit the whole political left; the PDS reinterpreted it for itself by printing red socks.

PDS–WASG alliance

Die Linke
The predecessors of Die Linke, and its split-off Bündnis Sahra Wagenknecht.

In January 2005, a group of disaffected Social Democrats and trade unionists founded Labour and Social Justice – The Electoral Alternative (WASG), a left-wing party opposed to federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's Agenda 2010 labour and welfare reforms. The party made a modest showing of 2.2% in the North Rhine-Westphalia state election in May, but failed to win seats. The election saw the incumbent SPD government defeated in a landslide, which was widely interpreted as a sign of the federal SPD's unpopularity. Chancellor Schröder subsequently called an early federal election to be held in September.

WASG continued to gain members, prompting the PDS leadership to propose an alliance between the two parties. With the established eastern base of the PDS and WASG's potential for growth in the west, the parties hoped to enter the Bundestag together. They agreed to form an electoral pact, in which they would not run against one another in direct constituencies and would create joint electoral lists featuring candidates from both parties. They also agreed to unify into a single party in 2007. To symbolise the new relationship, the PDS renamed itself the Left Party.PDS (German: Linkspartei.PDS). The joint list ran under the name The Left.PDS (German: Die Linke.PDS), though in the western states, where the PDS was shunned for its association with the GDR, "PDS" was optional. The alliance's profile was greatly boosted when former federal Minister of Finance Oskar Lafontaine, who had left the SPD after the North Rhine-Westphalia election, joined WASG in June. He was chosen as the party's lead candidate for the federal election and shared the spotlight with Gregor Gysi of the PDS.

Polls early in the summer showed the unified Left list winning as much as 12 percent of the vote, and for a time it seemed possible the party would surge past the Greens and FDP and become the third-largest party in the Bundestag. During the campaign, the party was subject to frequent criticism. At one event, Oskar Lafontaine described Fremdarbeiter ("foreign workers", a term associated with the Nazi regime) as a threat to German labour. He claimed to have misspoken, but in an article published in Die Welt, a group of prominent German writers accused him of deliberately appealing to xenophobic and far-right voters.

In the 2005 federal election, the Left.PDS easily passed the electoral threshold, winning 8.7% of the vote and 53 seats. It became the fourth largest party in the Bundestag. The result of the election was inconclusive; between the SPD, Greens, and Left.PDS, left-wing parties held a majority, but the SPD was unwilling to cooperate with the Left.PDS. The result was a grand coalition of the CDU and SPD.

Party foundation

Negotiations for a formal merger of the PDS and WASG continued through the next year until a final agreement was reached on 27 March 2007. The new party, called The Left (Die Linke), held its founding congress in Berlin on 16 June 2007. Lothar Bisky and Oskar Lafontaine were elected as co-leaders, while Gregor Gysi became leader of the party's Bundestag group.

The unified party quickly became a serious force in western Germany for the first time. It comfortably surpassed the electoral threshold in Bremen in 2007, and throughout 2008 won seats in Lower Saxony, Hesse and Hamburg. The "five-party system" in Germany was now a reality in the west as well as the east.

A string of electoral successes followed during the "super election year" of 2009. The Left achieved 7.5% in the European elections, confirming their enduring nationwide popularity. Six state elections were held throughout the year, and in each of them the party either surged ahead or consolidated earlier gains. They saw an upswing in Thuringia and Hesse and won seats for the first time in Schleswig-Holstein and Saarland. Oskar Lafontaine ran as the party's lead candidate in Saarland, leading the party to a massive success with 21.3% of the vote. In Saxony and Brandenburg, The Left's vote declined slightly, but it remained the second largest party in both states.

2009 federal election

Bundestag 2009 Linke
Results for the second votes by constituency in the 2009 federal election

The electoral collapse of the Social Democratic Party in the federal election on 27 September 2009 saw The Left's vote surge to 11.9%, increasing its representation in the Bundestag from 54 to 76 seats, just under half as large as the SPD's parliamentary group. It became the second most popular party in the eastern states with 28.5%, while experiencing a breakthrough in the west with 8.3%. It was the most popular party in Saxony-Anhalt and Brandenburg, and won sixteen direct constituencies, the largest tally by a minor party in history. The Left nonetheless remained in opposition.

The Left won seats in the parliament of Germany's most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, in the May 2010 election. They now held seats in thirteen of Germany's sixteen states, only absent from three states in the traditionally conservative south.

In January 2010, Oskar Lafontaine announced that, due to his ongoing cancer treatment, he would not seek re-election to the party leadership at the upcoming party congress. At the congress in May, Lothar Bisky also chose not to nominate for re-election; Klaus Ernst and Gesine Lötzsch were elected as the party's new leaders.

Just a few weeks later, the SPD and Greens invited the Left to support their candidate for the 2010 presidential election, former Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records Joachim Gauck. They suggested that this was an opportunity for the Left to leave their communist past behind them and show unconditional support for democracy. However, the party refused to support him, highlighting his support of the War in Afghanistan and his attacks on their party. They also rejected the conservative Christian Wulff, favourite of Chancellor Angela Merkel, instead putting forward their own nominee, television journalist Luc Jochimsen. The red-green camp reacted with disappointment. SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel described The Left's position as "bizarre and embarrassing," stating that he was shocked that they would declare Joachim Gauck their enemy due to his investigation of GDR injustice. The SPD and Greens expected the Left to support Gauck in the decisive third round of the election; however, after Jochimsen withdrew, most of the Left's delegates abstained. Wulff was elected by an absolute majority.

The party was isolated ahead of the March 2012 presidential election. The federal CDU/CSU–FDP government invited the SPD and Greens to agree on an all-party consensus candidate; The Left was excluded. Those invited eventually agreed to support Joachim Gauck. The Left again refused to support him. SPD chair Sigmar Gabriel once again criticized the party, claiming they harboured "sympathy for the German Democratic Republic." The Left put forward Beate Klarsfeld, a journalist and outspoken anti-fascist who had investigated numerous Nazi war criminals. She received 10.2% of the delegate votes. Gauck was elected in the first round with 80.4% of votes.

The Left's fortunes began to turn in 2011, and they suffered a string of setbacks and defeats through 2013, particularly in the western states. They failed to win seats in Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Württemberg, and suffered losses in Bremen, Berlin, and Saarland. Crucially, the party lost its seats in the Landtags of Schleswig-Holstein, North Rhine-Westphalia, and Lower Saxony.

On 11 April 2012, Gesine Lötzsch resigned as party co-leader, citing medical conditions her husband was suffering. Klaus Ernst subsequently announced he would not seek re-election as leader at the party congress in June. Katja Kipping, who had served as deputy leader since 2007, was elected as co-leader with 67.1% of votes. Bernd Riexinger was elected as the other co-leader with 53.5% of votes, winning a narrow contest against Dietmar Bartsch.

2013 federal election

Btw13 linke zweit endgueltig
Results for the second votes by constituency in the 2013 federal election

In the 2013 federal election, The Left received 8.6% of the national vote and won 64 seats, a decline from 2009. However, due to the collapse of the FDP, they moved into third place. After the formation of a second grand coalition between the CDU and SPD, The Left became the leading party of the opposition.

The party narrowly retained its seats in the Hessian state election held on the same day as the federal election. The Left suffered a major loss in Brandenburg in 2014, losing a third of its voteshare and falling to third place. Nonetheless, it continued as a junior partner under the SPD.

The 2014 Thuringian state election was the party's biggest success to date, achieving not only its best state election result (28.2%) but also forming the first coalition with one of its own members at the head. The party was able to negotiate a red-red-green coalition with the SPD and Greens, and Bodo Ramelow was elected Minister-President by the Landtag of Thuringia, becoming the first member of the party to serve as head of government of any German state.

The Left achieved modest gains in the city-states of Hamburg and Bremen in 2015. They suffered a loss in Saxony-Anhalt reminiscent of that in Brandenburg 18 months earlier, falling to third place and losing a third of their voteshare. In September, the Left joined government in Berlin after the 2016 state election as the second-largest member of a coalition with the SPD and Greens.

2017 federal election

Karte btw linke17z endg
Results for the second votes by constituency in the 2017 federal election

In the 2017 federal election, The Left fell to fifth place due to the re-entry of the FDP in fourth place and the ascension of AfD to third place. The party suffered substantial losses in its traditional eastern heartland, but made a net gain nationally thanks to an improvement in the western states, rising to 9.2% of votes (up 0.6 points).

Throughout 2017, they failed to make a comeback to the Landtags of Schleswig-Holstein, North Rhine-Westphalia, and Lower Saxony, despite making gains in all three states. The party's slow decline in Saarland continued, winning 12.8% in March. In 2018, they defended their seats in Hesse. Kipping and Riexinger were re-elected for a third time at the party congress in 2018, winning 64.5% and 73.8% respectively.

The Left had mixed results in 2019. In the European election, they declined to 5.5%, the worst result in a national election since the party's formation. In the Bremen state election held on the same day, the party made small gains, and joined a western state government for the first time in a coalition under the SPD and Greens. The Left suffered major losses in the Brandenburg and Saxony state elections held on 1 September, losing almost half its voteshare in each, and left the Brandenburg government, in which they had participated since 2009.

In the 2019 Thuringian state election, Ramelow led the party to its best ever result, winning 31.0% and becoming the largest party in a state legislature for the first time, though his red-red-green government lost its majority. In February 2020, the FDP's Thomas Kemmerich was elected Minister-President with the support of AfD and the CDU, but immediately resigned due to widespread outrage. After a protracted government crisis, Ramelow was re-elected for a second term to lead a minority government.

In August 2020, Kipping and Riexinger announced they would step down as co-chairs in accordance with party regulations stating that no position should be held by the same person for more than eight years. A party congress was scheduled on 30 October to 1 November 2020, but was cancelled on 27 October due to the worsening of the COVID-19 pandemic in Germany; the party instead held a fully digital congress on 26–27 February 2021. Hessian parliamentary leader Janine Wissler and Thuringia branch leader Susanne Hennig-Wellsow were elected co-chairs on 27 February, winning 84% and 71% of votes cast, respectively.

2021 federal election

During the 2021 German federal election, The Left was eager to become a partner in a coalition government with the SPD and Greens. As the CDU/CSU collapsed in the polls and the SPD surged, the last month of the campaign saw the conservative government engage in a Red Scare campaign against The Left and the prospect of a red–red–green coalition, utilising red-baiting and fearmongering about extremism; the party had elected a new moderate leadership and put forward an observably more moderate programme than previous elections. A capital flight to Switzerland ensued due to fear of increased taxes for the wealthy through higher inheritance tax and a wealth tax.

The Left won 4.9% of votes and 39 seats in the 26 September federal election, its worst showing since its official formation in 2007, narrowly failing to cross the 5% electoral threshold. The party was nonetheless entitled to full proportional representation as it won three direct constituencies; two in Berlin and one in Leipzig. This meant a net loss of 4.3 percentage points of vote share and 30 seats overall. Notably, Vice President of the Bundestag Petra Pau was defeated in her direct constituency of Berlin-Marzahn-Hellersdorf. Due to The Left's poor performance, a left-wing coalition fell a few seats short of a majority in the Bundestag.

State elections in Berlin and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern were held on the same day. The Left suffered minor losses in both, but nonetheless joined coalition governments in each state. In Berlin, they joined a renewed coalition with the SPD and Greens. In Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, they replaced the CDU as junior partner to the SPD.

After the federal election, The Left suffered internal strife and its fortunes continued to decline. A major blow came in the March 2022 Saarland state election, with the party losing all their seats amid conflict between the state leadership and Oskar Lafontaine, who declined to run again and quit the party shortly before the election. Further, reports of sexism and abuse arose within the Hesse branch, including claims that implicated Janine Wissler. In April, Susanne Hennig-Wellsow resigned as co-leader, citing the party's recent troubles and desire to spend more time with family. Further losses came in the Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia state elections in May.

2022–present: infighting and party split

The 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine highlighted fault lines within the party. The leadership and majority took a strongly pro-Ukrainian stance, while the faction around Sahra Wagenknecht opposed sanctions against Russia. At the party congress in June, incumbent Janine Wissler was re-elected as leader, while co-chair of The Left in the European Parliament (GUE/NGL) group Martin Schirdewan was elected as Hennig-Wellsow's successor. They both faced challenges from candidates aligned with Wagenknecht's faction, winning majorities of 57% and 61% of votes respectively.

During a Bundestag speech in September, Wagenknecht attacked the federal government for launching what she called "an unprecedented economic war against our most important energy supplier," and called for the end of sanctions against Russia. The speech was boycotted by half The Left's deputies, and prompted numerous calls for her resignation by colleagues. Hundreds of members were reported to have left the party over the dispute, including prominent former MdB Fabio De Masi. Die Tageszeitung reported that Wagenknecht's supporters had begun planning a breakaway party to compete in the 2024 European elections.

In the 2023 Berlin state election, The Left lost two seats in the Abgeordnetenhaus of Berlin; further, in the 2023 Bremen state election, they retained their 10 seats in the Bürgerschaft of Bremen. In the 2023 Hessian state election, The Left were wiped out after achieving 3.1% of the vote, thus losing their 9 seats due to falling short of the 5% threshold needed for representation.

In October 2023, Wagenknecht and nine other Bundestag members, including faction co-leader Amira Mohamed Ali, announced their intention to leave The Left and launch the Sahra Wagenknecht Alliance. This pushed The Left below the minimum number of members required to sustain an official faction in the Bundestag, and it was preemptively dissolved on 6 December. In February it was reorganised as a group with reduced status. Former faction leader Dietmar Bartsch declined to run again. Heidi Reichinnek and Sören Pellmann, who previously ran against Wissler and Schirdewan for the federal leadership, announced their intention to contest against the pro-leadership duo of Clara Bünger and Ates Gürpinar. On the first ballot, Reichinnek defeated Bünger 14 votes to 13; Gürpinar withdrew in favour of Bünger in the second ballot, but she was defeated again by Pellmann, again 14 to 13.

Ideology and platform

The Left advocates for democratic socialism as an alternative to capitalism. The Left is vocally anti-fascist and anti-militarist. As a platform for left-wing politics in the wake of globalization, the Left includes many different factions, ranging from communists to social democrats. During the joint party convention with the Labour and Social Justice – The Electoral Alternative in March 2007, a document outlining political principles was agreed on. The official program of the party was decided upon by an overwhelming majority at the party conference in October 2011 in Erfurt.

The Left is generally considered a left-wing, big tent party. This party is sometimes considered part of the German "centre-left" camp. It has been described as "far-left" by journalists in some news outlets including the BBC, Euronews, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel, and is considered to be left-wing populist by some researchers.

Economic policy

The Left aims at increasing government spending in the areas of public investments, education, research and development, culture, and infrastructure, as well as increasing taxes for large corporations. It calls for increases in inheritance tax rates and the reinstatement of the individual net worth tax. The party aims at a linear income tax progression, which would reduce the tax burden for lower incomes, while raising the middle- and top-income tax rates. The combating of tax loopholes is a perennial issue, as The Left believes that they primarily benefit people with high incomes. The party aims for the financial markets to be subject to heavier government regulation, with the goal, among others, to reduce the speculation of bonds and derivatives. The party wants to strengthen anti-trust laws and empower cooperatives to decentralise the economy. Further economic reforms supported by the party include solidarity and more self-determination for workers, a ban on hydraulic fracturing, the rejection of privatization, and the introduction of a federal minimum wage, and more generally the overthrow of property and power structures in which, citing Karl Marx's aphorism, "man is a debased, enslaved, abandoned, despicable essence."

Foreign policy

Concerning foreign policy, The Left calls for international disarmament, while ruling out any form of involvement of the Bundeswehr outside of Germany. The party calls for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Germany, as well as the replacement of NATO with a collective security system including Russia as a member country. They believe that German foreign policy should be strictly confined to the goals of civil diplomacy and cooperation, instead of confrontation, though they also believe that such demands are more of a vision, are not to be implemented as soon as possible, and should not be seen as inflexible preconditions for a federal, left-wing red–red–green coalition.

In their manifesto, the party says: "All support for NATO states which, like Erdoğan's Turkey, disregard international law, must be stopped immediately." The Left criticised Germany's defense plan with Saudi Arabia, which has been waging war in Yemen and has been accused of massive human rights violations. The Left supports further debt cancellations for developing countries and increases in development aid, in collaboration with the United Nations, World Trade Organization, World Bank, and diverse bilateral treaties among countries. The party supports reform of the United Nations as long as it is aimed at a fair balance between developed and developing countries. The Left would have all American military bases within Germany, and if possible in the European Union, enacted within a binding treaty, dissolved. The Left welcomes European integration, while opposing what it believes to be neoliberal policies in the European Union. The party strives for the democratisation of the EU institutions and a stronger role of the United Nations in international politics. The Left opposed both the war in Afghanistan and the Iraq War, as well as the Lisbon Treaty.

The party has a mixed stance towards the Russo-Ukrainian War. Gregor Gysi has described Russia as state capitalist, and the party has called the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation and the Russian military intervention in Ukraine to be illegal; however, Gysi commented that older elements of the party have a strong penchant for Russia and the Soviet Union. The party declared in May 2014 that Ukraine should not receive any kind of support from Germany as long as there are fascists inside its government. Some members of the party (like MP Andrej Hunko) are strong supporters of the Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic. The party also takes a friendly stance towards China; Sevim Dağdelen, deputy leader of The Left in the Bundestag, criticized EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen's speech calling for a new EU policy towards China, saying that "[t]he EU and its member states want to challenge the emerging power China, including through military means."


Erfurter Parteitag Juni 2022 - 52171211902 (cropped)
Janine Wissler (left) and Martin Schirdewan at the 2022 federal party conference
Erfurter Parteitag Juni 2022 - 52168834377
The 2022 party conference

The Left is organised into branches in each of the 16 states. The party has smaller branches on a local level, for which the corresponding state branches are responsible. These branches usually organise across a district, city, or (in Berlin), borough. The lowest unit of the party is the grassroots organization, which, depending on the density of membership, can include a residential area, a city or an entire district. The party has a youth wing, Left Youth Solid, and a student wing known as The Left.SDS. The party is also affiliated with a number of left-wing think tanks, education, and policy groups, most prominently the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.

The party is formally led by a 26-member Party Executive Committee (PEC), of which seven are members of the party's leadership, the executive board. This includes two federal co-chairpersons, of which at least one is required by statute to be female. Convention also dictates that one leader should come from the Eastern states and one from the west, though this is not an official rule. The PEC is elected by a regular party congress, which also discusses and determines the party platform and rules on basic political and organisational matters. The leadership group of the party's Bundestag faction is considered a second centre of power within the party, and conflicts sometimes arise between the federal leadership and parliamentary group. This most prominently happened in 2015, which resulted in Bundestag co-leaders Sahra Wagenknecht and Dietmar Bartsch being elected as lead candidates for the 2017 federal election, defeating federal co-chairs Katja Kipping and Bernd Riexinger.

The Left's internal structure underwent a transitional phase after its formation in 2007 in order to integrate the different groups. Western party organisations were initially strongly favoured in party congresses, which strengthened the "fundamental opposition" faction of Oskar Lafontaine. These provisions expired at the 2014 party congress. The dual leadership, initially a temporary measure, was adopted permanently in 2010. This was not initially the case for the parliamentary group leadership, which was co-chaired by both Gregor Gysi and Lafontaine between 2005 and 2009, and solely by Gysi thereafter. After his retirement in 2015, however, the dual chairmanship was reintroduced. The executive committee originally comprised 44 members, but was reduced to 26 at the 2022 party congress. The number of deputy leaders was originally four, increased to six in 2018, and reduced to three in 2022.

The Left is noted for having an unusually strong and formalised system of internal factions, which are outlined in the party statutes. Factions with sufficiently large membership are entitled to send delegates to party congresses. In addition, there are around 40 working groups within the party.

Since June 2022, the composition of the Party Executive Committee has been as follows:

Position Member(s)
Party Chair
  • Janine Wissler
  • Martin Schirdewan
Deputy Party Chair
  • Ates Gürpinar
  • Lorenz Gösta Beutin
  • Katina Schubert
  • Jana Seppelt
Federal Party Secretary Tobias Bank [de]
Federal Treasurer Harald Wolf [de]
Member of the Party Executive Committee
  • Didem Aydurmus
  • Christine Buchholz
  • Janis Ehling
  • Kerstin Eisenreich [de]
  • Wulf Gallert [de]
  • Kathrin Gebel
  • Margit Glasow
  • Bettina Gutperl
  • Stefan Hartmann
  • Sebastian Koch
  • Dana Lützkendorf
  • Tupac Orellana Mardones
  • Ellen Ost
  • Luigi Pantisano
  • Jan Richter
  • Maja Tegeler [de]
  • Frank Tempel
  • Daphne Weber

The Council of Elders (Ältestenrat) is an advisory body formed in December 2007. Lothar Bisky stated the council would "focus on the development of the party, allied and international issues, the history of the left and possible consequences for the socialist program." Its current composition is as follows:

Position Member(s)
Chair Hans Modrow
Vice Chair Christina Emmrich [de]
Wolfgang Grabowski
Ursula Schumm-Garling
Member of the
Council of Elders

Gretchen Binus
Edeltraut Felfe
Friederun Fessen
Johanna Klages
Evelin Nowitzki
Bärbel Schindler-Saefkow
Anni Seidl
Sybille Stamm
Joachim Bischoff [de]
Wolfgang Gehrcke [de]
Heiner Halberstadt [de]
Dieter Hooge [de]
Hermann Klenner [de]
Bruno Mahlow
Ulrich Maurer [de]
Gregor Schirmer [de]

Leadership history

Federal chairpersons Term start Term end
Lothar Bisky PDS, Variante b.JPG
Lothar Bisky
Oskar Lafontaine (DIE LINKE) in Hamm (10571425525).jpg
Oskar Lafontaine
16 June 2007 (2007-06-16) 15 May 2010 (2010-05-15)
2018-06-09 Bundesparteitag Die Linke 2018 in Leipzig by Sandro Halank–115.jpg
Gesine Lötzsch
2018-06-09 Bundesparteitag Die Linke 2018 in Leipzig by Sandro Halank–054.jpg
Klaus Ernst
15 May 2010 (2010-05-15) 2 June 2012 (2012-06-02)
2018-06-09 Bundesparteitag Die Linke 2018 in Leipzig by Sandro Halank–045.jpg
Katja Kipping
2018-06-09 Bundesparteitag Die Linke 2018 in Leipzig by Sandro Halank–085.jpg
Bernd Riexinger
2 June 2012 (2012-06-02) 27 February 2021 (2021-02-27)
Susanne Hennig-Wellsow 2021-02-27 Digitalparteitag Die Linke 2021 by Martin Heinlein - Cropped.png
Susanne Hennig-Wellsow
Janine Wissler 2 - 2021-02-27 Digitalparteitag Die Linke 2021 by Martin Heinlein (square).jpg
Janine Wissler
27 February 2021 (2021-02-27) 20 April 2022 (2022-04-20)
Vacant 20 April 2022 (2022-04-20) 25 June 2022 (2022-06-25)
Martin Schirdewan (2019)
Martin Schirdewan
25 June 2022 (2022-06-25) Incumbent
Bundestag chairpersons Term start Term end
Gregor Gysi
Oskar Lafontaine (DIE LINKE) in Hamm (10571425525).jpg
Oskar Lafontaine
18 October 2005 (2005-10-18) 27 October 2009 (2009-10-27)
Gregor Gysi
27 October 2009 (2009-10-27) 13 October 2015 (2015-10-13)
2018-06-09 Bundesparteitag Die Linke 2018 in Leipzig by Sandro Halank–141.jpg
Dietmar Bartsch
2018-06-09 Bundesparteitag Die Linke 2018 in Leipzig by Sandro Halank–126.jpg
Sahra Wagenknecht
13 October 2015 (2015-10-13) 12 November 2019 (2019-11-12)
Amira Mohamed Ali Rheda.jpg
Amira Mohamed Ali
12 November 2019 (2019-11-12) 6 December 2023 (2023-12-06)
Faction dissolved – reduced to group status
Heidi Reichinnek.png
Heidi Reichinnek
Sören Pellmann.jpg
Sören Pellmann
19 February 2024 (2024-02-19) Incumbent

State branches

The party has branches in all 16 states. As of 31 December 2022, the membership of the branches is as follows.

State Leader(s) Members
 Baden-Württemberg Sahra Mirow [de]
Elwis Capece
 Bavaria Kathrin Flach-Gomez
Adelheid Rupp [de]
 Berlin Franziska Brychcy [de]
Maximilian Schirmer [de]
 Brandenburg Katharina Slanina [de]
Sebastian Walter [de]
 Bremen Anna Fischer
Christoph Spehr [de]
 Hamburg Sabine Ritter [de]
Thomas Iwan [de]
 Hesse Christiane Böhm [de]
Jakob Migenda
 Lower Saxony Franziska Junker
Thorben Peters
 Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Peter Ritter [arz; de]
Vanessa Müller [de]
 North Rhine-Westphalia Kathrin Vogler
Sascha H. Wagner
 Rhineland-Palatinate Stefan Glander 1,478
 Saarland Barbara Spaniol 1,426
 Saxony Susanne Schaper [de]
Stefan Hartmann
 Saxony-Anhalt Janina Böttger
Hendrik Lange [de]
 Schleswig-Holstein Susanne Spethmann
Luca Grimminger
 Thuringia Ulrike Grosse-Röthig [de]
Christian Schaft [de]
Total 54,214

Internal factions

The Left is noted for having an unusually strong and formalised system of internal factions, which are outlined in the party statutes. Factions with sufficiently large membership are entitled to send delegates to party congresses. The party is traditionally split between reformist factions, such as the Reform Left Network and Forum for Democratic Socialism, and orthodox factions such as the Communist Platform, Anti-Capitalist Left, and Socialist Left. The Emancipatory Left occupies a middle position.

However, starting from 2015, the party underwent an internal realignment due to the preeminence of Sahra Wagenknecht, who advocated a return to a fundamentally working-class focus and populist positions in the wake of the European refugee crisis and rise of the Alternative for Germany. In response, many eastern reformers and members of radical left factions allied in the broad "Movement Left" (Bewegungslinke), committed to social movements, environmentalism, and intersectional progressivism. The Movement Left broadly dominates the party, with no members of the Wagenknecht faction elected to the executive at the 2022 congress.

Faction Description
Anti-Capitalist Left
Antikapitalische Linke (AKL)
A current founded in 2006 which seeks to strengthen the party's anti-capitalist profile. The AKL describe themselves as "movement-oriented" and seek cooperation with extra-parliamentary parties and left-wing movements. They are aligned with the orthodox left-wing of The Left, and believe that the party should only participate in coalition governments if a set of minimum criteria are met, including no privatization, no military operations, and no cuts to social welfare or the public service. The BfV classifies the AKL as an extremist association. In 2020, the AKL had 1,060 members. Prominent members include Tobias Pflüger, Cornelia Hirsch, Ulla Jelpke, Lucy Redler, and Niema Movassat.
Communist Platform
Kommunistische Plattform (KPF)
Originally formed as a tendency of the PDS. It is less critical of German Democratic Republic than other currents and upholds orthodox Marxist positions. A "strategic goal" of the KPF is "building a new socialist society, using the positive experiences of real socialism and to learn from mistakes". Its primary leader was Sahra Wagenknecht, former co-leader of the party's Bundestag faction. The BfV classifies the KPF as an extremist association. In 2020, the group had 1,122 members.
Democratic Socialist Forum
Forum demokratischer Sozialismus (fds)
A democratic socialist group considered part of the reformist wing of the party. Originally founded in 2002 as the Forum Second Renewal, it was reformed in 2007 to promote the positions of the PDS within the new Left party. It places emphasis on civil rights and social progressivism, and supports cooperation with the SPD and Greens. Prominent members include Dietmar Bartsch and Luise Neuhaus-Wartenberg.
Ecological Platform
Ökologische Plattform (ÖPF)
A current which promotes green politics and eco-socialism. Founded in 1994 within the PDS, it is critical of capitalism and supports degrowth. The group describes itself as "a forum for all left-wing ecologists", and is expressly open to non-Left party members.
Emancipatory Left
Emanzipatorische Linke (Ema.Li)
A libertarian socialist current co-founded in May 2009 by Katja Kipping, Caren Lay, and Julia Bonk. They advocate radical democracy, a decentralized society, and are supportive of social movements. Ema.Li is described as holding a "middle position" between the reformist and orthodox wings of the party. The group accepts members of other factions as well as non-party members. Besides its co-founders, prominent members include Christoph Spehr and Anne Helm.
Gera Dialogue/Socialist Dialogue
Geraer Dialog/Sozialistischer Dialog (GD/SD)
Formed in February 2003 as a reaction to the increasing influence of reform-oriented groups such as the Reform Left Network. They opposed a shift away from Marxism and what they feared as a move toward a social market economy model. As of 2021, the faction is only partly recognised within the party. The BfV classified GD/SD as an extremist organisation in 2018, but did not include the group in its 2020 report.
Marxist Forum
Marxistisches Forum (MF)
Founded in 1995 within the PDS to promote classical Marxism. It is critical of the reform-oriented wings and positions of the party and is often sympathetic to the GDR. As of 2021, the faction is only partly recognised within the party. The BfV classified the group as "orthodox communist" and extremist in its 2018 report, and reported that it had 400 members. The Marxist Forum did not appear in the BfV's 2020 report.
Reform Left Network
Netzwerk Reformlinke
Originally formed in 2003 as a tendency within PDS promoting social democracy. It is closely associated with the Democratic Socialist Forum, which was formed around the same time. The Reform Left Network strongly supports involvement in coalition governments with the SPD and Greens. It includes a number of prominent Left politicians, including Bundestag Vice-President Petra Pau, and Saxony-Anhalt branch leader Wulf Gallert, as well as Jan Korte, Stefan Liebich, and Halina Wawzyniak. As of 2021, the faction is no longer recognised within the party.
Socialist Left
Sozialistische Linke (SL)
Includes Keynesian leftists and reform communists, and seeks to orient the party toward the labour movement. It is considered part of the left wing of the party. Many leaders of the Socialist Left were formerly members of WASG, and the group models itself on the Dutch Socialist Party and the Italian Communist Refoundation Party. The revolutionary socialist current Marx21 organises within SL, as it does not meet the requirements to become its own caucus. The BfV classifies the current as an extremist association. In 2020, the group had 1,000 members. Leading members include Janine Wissler, Thomas Händel, Jürgen Klute, and Christine Buchholz.

In addition to the recognised platforms, a number of smaller groups have aligned with The Left and its predecessors, such as the Trotskyist Socialist Alternative (SAV), though the membership applications of some of its leaders, including Lucy Redler, were initially rejected. Der Funke, supporters of the International Marxist Tendency (IMT) in Germany, pursue entryist strategies in the party, while the Fourth International-affiliated International Socialist Organisation (ISO) also works inside The Left. Other left-wing groups, such as the German Communist Party (DKP), have formed local alliances with the party, but have not joined. The Association for Solidarity Perspectives (VsP) also supports the party.

Membership and electorate

Membership of The Left over time

According to regular studies by the Free University of Berlin, in 2021 The Left's membership comprised 17% blue-collar workers and 32% white-collar workers, similar to the SPD, while 35% were civil servants and 10% self-employed. 51% of party members held an academic degree, and 33% were organized in trade unions. Prior to the merger with WASG, the voting base of PDS was an approximate cross-section of the population, favoured somewhat by more educated voters. Since the merger, The Left has become more favoured among working-class and poorer voters, which made up the core of WASG's support.

Since the mid-2010s, the party has gained significant popularity among youth. Prior to the merger, PDS had by far the highest proportion of members over 60 years of any party, at 68%, and the lowest proportion of members under 30, at just 4%. By 2021, these numbers had fallen and risen, respectively, to 40% and 23%. The Left now is tied with the FDP in proportion of members under 30. Two-thirds of members who joined the party between 2016 and 2018 were under 35 years of age. In the 2021 federal election, The Left was twice as popular among voters under 25 than among voters over 70.

The PDS inherited 170,000 members from the SED in 1990, but suffered constant decline from that point until the merger with WASG. Upon its formation, The Left had 71,000 members, of which 11,500 had been WASG members. Over the next two years the party grew, reaching a peak of 78,000 in 2009, after which point numbers began to decline. In 2016, the party had 59,000 members. This trend temporarily reversed following the 2017 federal election, and the party gained several thousand new members for a total of 62,300 in 2019; however, membership shrank again to 60,350 in December 2020.


Karte btw linke17z endg
Results for the second votes by constituency in the 2017 federal election

A large part of The Left's base and membership reside in the new states (the former GDR). The voting base of the PDS was limited almost entirely to the east; upon its formation, the vast majority of The Left's western membership came from WASG. However, the party has grown in the west in the years since: while in 2005, the Left.PDS list won just 45.5% of its votes in the western states, this grew to 57.7% in 2009, and 65.4% in 2017. Between 2016 and 2018, 72% of new party members were from the western states, 15% from the east, and 13% from Berlin. During this period, the party's membership total in the west exceeded that of the east for the first time. As of 2021, 50% of The Left's members are from the west, 37% from the east, and 13% from Berlin.

Despite this, on the state level, the party has been marginalised in the west since making several breakthroughs in 2007–2010. Since 2010, it has lost representation in the Landtags of Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, and Schleswig-Holstein. Generally growing popularity in the west has also been offset by major losses in most of its eastern heartland since 2014.

The Left's voter demographics are skewed strongly by region. In the east, Left voters and members trend much older: in 2018, 44% of the party's members in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern were 76 years or older. Meanwhile, in the west, the party membership is male-dominated, with two-thirds of western members being men.


Women have been well-represented amongst elected representatives from The Left. The party's gender quota requires that at least half of the party's ruling bodies and representatives should be female. In 2021, the party elected two women, Janine Wissler and Susanne Hennig-Wellsow, as federal co-chairs for the first time. Female membership in the PDS was stable at around 45% during the 1990s and 2000s, far higher than any other party, but fell to 39% post-merger in 2007 since the large majority of WASG members were male. Nonetheless, the party had the highest representation of women in its membership until it was overtaken by the Greens in 2012. In 2021, 37% of Left members were female, compared to 42% for the Greens and 33% for the SPD. After the 2009 election, the party's Bundestag group was 52.6% female, second only to the Greens (57.4%). In 2013, this increased slightly to 54.7%, which was the highest of any group. After both the 2017 and 2021 federal elections, The Left's group was 54% female, second to the Greens (58%).

Election results

Federal Parliament (Bundestag)

Election Constituency Party list Seats +/– Status
Votes  % Votes  %
2009 4,791,124 11.1 (#3) 5,155,933 11.9 (#4)
76 / 622
Increase 22 Opposition
2013 3,585,178 8.2 (#3) 3,755,699 8.6 (#3)
64 / 631
Decrease 12 Opposition
2017 3,966,035 8.6 (#4) 4,296,762 9.2 (#5)
69 / 709
Increase 5 Opposition
2021 2,306,755 5.0 (#7) 2,269,993 4.9 (#7)
39 / 735
Decrease 30 Opposition

European Parliament

Election Votes  % Seats +/–
2009 1,968,325 7.5 (#5)
8 / 99
Increase 1
2014 2,167,641 7.4 (#4)
7 / 96
Decrease 1
2019 2,056,010 5.5 (#5)
5 / 96
Decrease 2

State Parliaments (Länder)

State parliament Election Votes  % Seats +/– Status
Baden-Württemberg 2021 173,295 3.6 (#6)
0 / 154
Steady 0 No seats
Bavaria 2023 200,795 1.5 (#7)
0 / 203
Steady 0 No seats
Berlin 2023 184,954 12.2 (#4)
22 / 147
Decrease 2 Opposition
Brandenburg 2019 135,558 10.7 (#5)
10 / 88
Decrease 7 Opposition
Bremen 2023 137,676 10.9 (#4)
10 / 87
Steady 0 SPD–Greens–Left
Hamburg 2020 364,102 9.1 (#4)
13 / 123
Increase 2 Opposition
Hesse 2023 86,821 3.1 (#7)
0 / 133
Decrease 9 No seats
Lower Saxony 2022 98,585 2.7 (#6)
0 / 146
Steady 0 No seats
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern 2021 90,865 9.9 (#4)
9 / 79
Decrease 2 SPD–Left
North Rhine-Westphalia 2022 146,634 2.1 (#6)
0 / 195
Steady 0 No seats
Rhineland-Palatinate 2021 48,210 2.5 (#7)
0 / 101
Steady 0 No seats
Saarland 2022 11,689 2.6 (#6)
0 / 51
Decrease 7 No seats
Saxony 2019 224,354 10.4 (#3)
14 / 119
Decrease 13 Opposition
Saxony-Anhalt 2021 116,927 11.0 (#3)
12 / 97
Decrease 4 Opposition
Schleswig-Holstein 2022 23,035 1.7 (#7)
0 / 69
Steady 0 No seats
Thuringia 2019 343,736 31.0 (#1)
29 / 90
Increase 1 Left–SPD–Greens
Best historic results for state parties
State Seats / Total  % Position/Gov. Year Lead Candidate
0 / 154
3.6 (#6) No seats 2021 Sahra Mirow
0 / 187
4.4 (#6) No seats 2008 Fritz Schmalzbauer
33 / 141
22.6 (#3) SPD–PDS 2001
(as PDS)
Gregor Gysi (Deputy Governing Mayor 2002)
26 / 88
27.2 (#2) SPD–The Left 2009 Kerstin Kaiser
10 / 84
11.3 (#4) SPD–Greens–Left 2019 Kristina Vogt
13 / 123
9.1 (#4) Opposition 2020 Cansu Özdemir
9 / 137
6.3 (#6) Opposition 2018 Janine Wissler
Jan Schalauske
Lower Saxony
11 / 152
7.1 (#5) Opposition 2008 Kreszentia Flauger
20 / 71
24.4 (#3) SPD–PDS 1998
(as PDS)
Helmut Holter (Deputy Minister-President 1998–2002)
North Rhine-Westphalia
11 / 181
5.6 (#5) Opposition 2010 Bärbel Beuermann
0 / 101
3,0 (#5) No seats 2011 Robert Drumm
Tanja Krauth
11 / 51
21.3 (#3) Opposition Leader 2009 Oskar Lafontaine
31 / 124
23.6 (#2) Opposition Leader 2004
(as PDS)
Peter Porsch
25 / 116
19.6 (#3) SPD minority
with PDS confidence and supply
(as PDS)
Petra Sitte
6 / 95
6.0 (#5) Opposition 2009 Antje Jansen
29 / 90
31.0 (#1) Left–SPD–Greens minority 2019 Bodo Ramelow (Minister-President 2014–)

State results timeline

State parliaments

Results timeline

Party Year Germany
European Union
Bremen (state)
Lower Saxony
Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania
North Rhine-Westphalia
PDS 1990 2.4 9.2 13.4 15.7 10.2 12.0 9.7
1994 Increase 4.4 4.7 Increase 18.7 Increase 22.7 Increase 16.5 Increase 19.9 Increase 16.6
1995 Increase 14.6 2.4
1997 0.7
1998 Increase 5.1 0.2 Increase 24.4 Decrease 19.6
1999 Increase 5.8 Increase 17.7 Increase 23.3 Increase 2.9          0.8 Increase 22.2 Increase 21.3
2000 1.1 1.4
2001 Increase 22.6 Decrease 0.4 0.0
2002 Decrease 4.0          Decrease 16.4 Increase 20.4
2003 Decrease 1.7 Increase 0.4         
2004 Increase 6.1 Increase 28.0 Increase 2.3 Increase 23.6 Increase 26.1
The Left.PDS
2005 Increase 8.7 Increase 3.1 Decrease 0.5
2006 3.1 Decrease 13.4 Increase 16.8 Increase 2.7 Increase 24.1
The Left 2007          Increase 8.4
2008 4.4 6.4 5.1 Increase 7.1
2009 Increase 11.9 Increase 7.5 Decrease 27.2 Increase 5.4 Increase 21.3 Decrease 20.6 Increase 6.0 Increase 27.4
2010          Increase 5.6
2011 Decrease 2.8 Decrease 11.6 Decrease 5.6 Steady 6.4 Increase 18.4 Increase 3.0 Decrease 23.7
2012 Decrease 2.5 Decrease 16.1 Decrease 2.3
2013 Decrease 8.6 Decrease 2.1 Decrease 5.2 Decrease 3.1
2014 Decrease 7.4 Decrease 18.6 Decrease 18.9 Increase 28.2
2015          Increase 9.5 Increase 8.5             
2016 Increase 2.9 Increase 15.6 Decrease 13.2 Decrease 2.8 Decrease 16.3
2017 Increase 9.2              Increase 4.6 Increase 4.9 Decrease 12.8 Increase 3.8
2018 Increase 3.2 Increase 6.3
2019 Decrease 5.5 Decrease 10.7 Increase 11.3 Decrease 10.4 Increase 31.0
2020              Increase 9.1             
2021 Decrease 4.9 Increase 3.6 Decrease 14.0
Decrease 9.9
Decrease 2.5 Decrease 11.0
2022 Decrease 2.7 Decrease 2.1 Decrease 2.6 Decrease 1.7
Party Year Germany
European Union
Bremen (state)
Lower Saxony
Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania
North Rhine-Westphalia
Bold indicates best result to date.
     Present in legislature (in opposition)
     Junior coalition partner
     Senior coalition partner

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: La Izquierda (Alemania) para niños


  • Dominic Heilig, Mapping the European Left: Socialist Parties in the EU, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, April 2016
  • David F. Patton. Out of the East: From PDS to Left Party in Unified Germany (State University of New York Press; 2011)
  • Hubertus Knabe, Honeckers Erben. Die Wahrheit über Die Linke. Propyläen, Berlin 2009, ISBN: 978-3-549-07329-2
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