The Party without Qualities?

Explaining the Left Party’s Electoral Disaster in the 2021 German Federal Election

in German Politics and Society
Author:
Jonathan OlsenDepartment Chair, Texas Woman’s University, USA

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Michael A. HansenAssociate Professor, University of Turku, Finland

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In the 2021 German federal election, the Left Party suffered its worst electoral defeat ever. Although it hemorrhaged voters to all the parties, its losses to the Social Democrats and Greens were particularly large. In this article, we examine the reasons behind Die Linke’s poor electoral performance. Although a number of factors may have played small roles, we hypothesize that the most important by far was the Left Party’s failure to distinguish itself in its policy positions from its chief rivals on the center left and the left. Using data from the Comparative Manifesto Project (cpm) and Chapel Hill Expert Survey (ches), we demonstrate the Left Party’s lack of issue ownership and its distinct policy and ideological profile in 2021. Consequently, we argue that Die Linke gave voters few reasons to vote for it.

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