The Left Party at a protest against the war in Afghanistan in 2010 in the Bundestag
Photo: Rainer Jensen / picture alliance / dpa
It is a historic event: after 18 years in the Bundestag, the parliamentary group of the Left Party is dissolving this Wednesday – in the middle of the legislative period.
The reason is the departure of Sahra Wagenknecht and nine other MPs, who want to found a new party in a few weeks. This means that only 28 deputies of the Left Party are represented in parliament, but 37 deputies would be needed for the strength of the parliamentary group. And so the Left Party in the Bundestag has no choice but to organize its own dissolution.
For the parliamentary group, a turbulent history is coming to an end – with emotions, disputes and scandals. The most important moments in pictures.
2005: The PDS, as it was then called, enters the Bundestag with 8.7 percent. In the previous legislative period, it was only represented in parliament by the two direct mandates of Petra Pau and Gesine Lötzsch. Thanks to the support of former SPD leader Oskar Lafontaine, the comeback is now succeeding. The SPD and the Greens lose their majority. The CDU politician Angela Merkel becomes Chancellor – also because of the success of the Left Party.
2006: Petra Pau is surprisingly elected Vice-President of the Bundestag. The PDS had not filled the vice-presidential post to which it was entitled for months after Lothar Bisky had failed four times as the original candidate in the regular election. To this day, Pau is vice president of the Bundestag and she is expected to be allowed to keep her post – even if the Left Party no longer has a clear claim without a parliamentary group.
2009: Party co-founder Oskar Lafontaine retires from the chairmanship of the Bundestag parliamentary group. He is suffering from cancer. There is a scramble in the parliamentary group to succeed him. After all, Gregor Gysi, one of the founding fathers of the party, remains the sole leader of the parliamentary group for the time being.
2010: Sahra Wagenknecht remains seated in parliament after a speech by the then Israeli President Shimon Peres – while the other members of parliament rise to applause. It is the first major scandal that Wagenknecht provokes in the Bundestag. To this day, the left is at odds over its relationship with Israel.
2010: No member of the Left Party caused more commotion than Diether Dehm. Joachim Gauck was "a well poisoner, a witch hunter," Dehm complained, when Gauck was first put forward as a candidate for the office of Federal President by the SPD and the Greens in 2010. In the years that followed, Dehm provoked further scandals, often insulting his political rivals.
2012: SPIEGEL reveals that the Office for the Protection of the Constitution is monitoring 27 members of the Bundestag from the Left Party. The excitement is great – there is also solidarity with the left in the other parties for this act.
2012: Gysi makes headlines with a speech at the party congress in Göttingen. "There's hatred in the group," he says. The party congress has far-reaching consequences. Dietmar Bartsch loses in the election for the party chairmanship in a candidacy against Bernd Riexinger, who moves to the party leadership with Katja Kipping. Later, Bartsch and Wagenknecht became parliamentary group chairmen and from then on engaged in a constant power struggle with the party leaders.
2014: Two critics of Israel enter the Bundestag with the help of Left Party MPs – and put pressure on Gysi. With a video camera, they follow the parliamentary group leader to the toilet in parliament and want to confront him on the subject of Israel. Afterwards, there are heated discussions in the parliamentary group about how the activists could have been invited in the first place.
2017: The leadership struggle within the left is increasingly escalating – and is taking place on an open stage. "Bernd, this is the press conference of the parliamentary group," parliamentary group leader Wagenknecht sharply interrupts her party chairman Riexinger at a press conference after a meeting.
2019: After a grueling power struggle, Wagenknecht announces her resignation as parliamentary group leader. Diagnosis: "Burn-out". After that, a battle for succession broke out, which was surprisingly won by the hitherto unknown MP Amira Mohamed Ali – thanks to Wagenknecht's support.
2021: In the midst of the Bundestag election campaign, the Left Party is unable to find a united stance on the Bundeswehr's rescue mission in Afghanistan. Five MEPs voted in favour, nine against, and the rest abstained. In foreign policy, the Left Party presents a chaotic picture shortly before the Bundestag elections. A government coalition with the SPD and the Greens is virtually out of the question. The Left Party won 4.9 percent of the vote in parliament thanks to three direct mandates.
2022: Sahra Wagenknecht gives a fierce speech in the Bundestag on the Ukraine war. She accuses the German government of "unleashing" an economic war against Russia. She called for an end to all sanctions. Even in the run-up to the meeting, there is a dispute in the group about whether it is speaking on this important topic at all. After the speech, a number of officials distanced themselves, followed by a wave of resignations.
2023: Ten MPs leave the Left Party and announce the founding of a new party. The end of the Left faction is sealed with this step. Read here what happens next.