D-Link: A new dual leadership to save the party from crisis

New party board
“We know where we want to go!” – Honestly? Even with a new dual leadership, the left still faces a critical test

After the elections, Janine Whistler and Martin Sherdiwan appeared on stage at the Federal Party Congress at the Erfurt Exhibition Center as chairmen of the Left Party.

© Martin Schutt / dpa

The new administrative duo will lead the left out of the crisis. But even after the Federalist Party Convention, the party remains divided. Could the left still be able to rule at some point?

She smiles, talks to the delegates, and walks through the ranks. Janine Whistler looks a little lost on Sunday in the huge concert hall in Messe Erfurt. But one thing is clear: a load lifted from her. “I’m relieved,” admits the 41-year-old left-wing federal leader.

Despite electoral failures, despite persistent controversies and allegations of sexism, Whistler was able to be re-elected. The Erfurt party congress also elected their preferred partner for dual leadership: European politician Martin Sherdiwan. As the 46-year-old Berliner immediately declared: “We understood that we were leftists. We are back.”

The leader of the Bundestag faction, Dietmar Bartsch, believed that the left should be proud of itself. After all, she is the prime minister in Thuringia with Bodo Ramelow, she is in four state governments and nine state parliaments, in many local parliaments and city councils. “Nothing,” Bartsch shouted to his comrades.

But has the party, which has been at odds for years, been saved after these three days in Erfurt, after endless and noisy debates? Will it return as a serious political force? Will it become the “caretaker party” that so many have invoked, leading the traffic light alliance ahead of it and fighting to help the inflation-plagued citizens? Will the left one day be able to rule in the federal government? Doubts remain.

The Phantom Wagenknecht

One of the reasons: Whistler’s senior opponent, Sahra Wagenknecht, is absent from Erfurt due to illness. What’s next for her and her followers? The former parliamentary group leader had fueled the row over direction and leadership through interviews and described the party conference as the “last chance”. Without Wagenknecht, their “camp” in Erfurt suffered a number of defeats.

Whistler’s re-election was one of them – Wagenknecht called “new faces”. Wagenknecht’s “camp” also lost on this issue: delegates supported the Whistler course by condemning Russia in the strongest possible terms to the Ukraine war – they voted against Wagenknecht’s proposal to emphasize NATO’s joint responsibility more forcefully.

The majority are not overly large

This only happened with a majority of about 60 to 40 — Whistler received 57.5 percent of the vote when she was re-elected to dual leadership, and her new co-chairman Sherdwan 61.3 percent. The situation was similar when it came to deciding on Russia and NATO. “It’s a very large minority of more than 40 percent of delegates who want to take a stance more critical of NATO,” said Andrei Honko, who supports the Wagenknecht line. He then reassured that the decision had been made democratically and that there was much that was right in the party’s executive motion.

Some delegates were less diplomatic. In a personal statement through the microphones in the hall, one criticized the Russian-Ukrainian decision as “nonsense,” and another noted: “We are now at loggerheads with our own programme.” Because that still calls for a “NATO dissolution.” “It’s not one thing, it’s a fresh start,” said a woman at the party convention. The unit looks different.

The left has to think about the personal consequences

Due to illness, Wagenknecht does not comment on Erfurt’s decisions, according to her office. Before the party conference, I left at least the matter of leaving the hall. The defeated presidential candidate, Soren Bellman, is also considering the personal consequences. Withdrawal from the parliamentary bloc? “I will consider all options in the next few days,” Bellman says when asked. Is it a split in the left?

Whistler and Sherdiwan never tire of talking about the signs of departure that the party convention sends: also with decisions on climate policy and social justice and with more penalties for misconduct such as sexual assaults that are hotly debated. In Erfurt, Whistler and Sherdeau avoided answering the question whether there would still be an ordeal. “It will show up on Monday,” Whistler said. The president of Thuringia, Ulrike Gross Rothig, was more clear: “I think we will see an exit next week.” It is unclear whether this divides or unites the party.

The new face of dual driving

In terms of staff, it’s at least half a fresh start: Sherdiwan, the co-leader of the Left Party in the European Parliament, is a newcomer to dual leadership. “It’s pragmatic,” party friends say. Schirdewan likes to talk about the practical value a party should have. You should focus more on the “bread and butter” issues that move people – such as rising energy and food prices and rising rents. Whistler is not bothered by the fact that Sherdiwan, who was sent to the race by the powerful Turing state federation, wants to remain a member of the European Parliament. It is a good thing to have a competent party leader in European politics. and: “We know and love each other. We know where we want to go.”

Simon Roth / Verena Schmidt-Rushmann / cl
DPA

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