Statement by Die Linke central office, Karl-Liebknecht- Haus, Berlin
January 28, 2008 -- DIE LINKE (The Left) emerged successful from regional elections on Sunday, January 27, 2008, in the German federal states of Hesse and Lower Saxony. After the state of Bremen, where the party in May 2007 for the first time entered a West German federal state parliament, DIE LINKE will have parliamentarians in two further West German states.
In Lower Saxony (capital: Hannover), the party got 7.1% of the vote, while in Hesse (capital: Wiesbaden) it just stepped over the 5% threshold with 5.1%. In both counties, the big parties had tried to prevent DIE LINKE entering parliament with anti-communist campaigning.
In Hesse, the incumbent prime minister [premier] Roland Koch (Christian Democratic Union, CDU) failed with his strategy to win the elections with a polarising and populist election campaign, demanding draconian punishments for young delinquent immigrants. The CDU lost 12% and the absolute majority of the former CDU-FDP [Free Democrats] government. The rejection of the homophobic and racist rhetoric by the voters was widely commented as an encouraging signal.
The SPD [Social Democratic Party] election campaign was led by Andrea Ypsilanti, member of the left current of the SPD, and who appropriated important political messages of DIE LINKE (such as the minimum wage, reform of the school system and progressive tax reforms), trying to compete with DIE LINKE this way. DIE LINKE's top candidate in Hesse, Willy van Oeyen, a trade unionist and prominent representative of the German peace movement, announced that DIE LINKE would continue to pressure the SPD in order to make it act in the political direction it had promised during the election campaign. The composition of the future Hesse state government is still fairly vague because of the narrow majority situation.
In Lower Saxony, a structurally conservative state, DIE LINKE reached an unexpectedly high result. This might partly to be explained by the fact that no one had a doubt about a clear victory of the CDU and the incumbent Prime Minister Christian Wulff and his CDU-FDP coalition, unlike in Hesse where a neck-and-neck race between the two biggest parties had been expected. DIE LINKE's top candidate Tina Flauger announced that DIE LINKE would become a strong opposition force.
The German political landscape will be substantially changed by these two elections. A system of five relevant political parties is now being sustainably established, and thus not only at the national parliamentary level, but backed by the federal state parliaments.
Lothar Bisky, chairperson of DIE LINKE, stated in a press conference: “We have caused a shift of the political landscape. With regard to the total number of mandates, we are the third political force in Germany. DIE LINKE takes effect.” And he added: “We made a big step forward in our party building process. To enter the parliament in two big federal states is an important milestone and a breakthrough. We are now on the way towards the regional elections in Hamburg (February 24) and the local elections in Bavaria (March 2) and Schleswig-Holstein (May 25).”
Oskar Lafontaine, chairperson of DIE LINKE, said: “Even more important than the entry of DIE LINKE into parliament is to change by these elections the social climate in favour of all those who rely on social justice. I am predicting that in the question of the pension formula or in social policies, the CDU-SPD coalition will have to make concessions towards us, as they have suffered substantial losses in votes.” And referring to DIE LINKE positions in regional politics, he declared: “We are the party against privatisation, for the system of non-denominational schools, for studies free of charge, for the maintenance of energy and gas prices directed by municipalities, for safe jobs in public services, for tendering procedures implying social standards such as minimum wages.”
Another important vote took place last Sunday in the town of Leipzig: In the first referendum in the history of the city, 87% of the participating citizens voted against the privatisation of the municipal utility company. The referendum had been supported by DIE LINKE.