For a party well-used to being excluded from post-election celebrations, the atmosphere at Die Linke’s election party was first of tense excitement, and then of triumph.
As the first exit polls were announced, the edgy, warehouse-like brewery venue in Berlin’s trendy Prenzlauer Berg district erupted in whooping that the socialist Die Linke would likely beat the Greens to become the third biggest political party in the German parliament.
The first estimates of the election’s result placed Die Linke at 8.5 percent – down half a percent from their last poll score – but half a point ahead of the Greens.
A specially impassioned roar of approval came with the news that the business-friendly FDP had dropped to 4.5 percent, meaning the liberal party, natural rivals to the socialist Linke, will not be able to enter the Bundestag at all.
This will be the first time the FDP are not represented in the Bundestag since 1949.
Early on in the evening, Die Linke’s charismatic leading candidate, Gregor Gysi, took to the stage to address the jubilant party members.
He thanked them for their hard work, and hailed the party’s newfound success, saying “who would have thought in 1990 that this party would become the third largest in Germany?”
Gysi warned that there were “hard times to come”, but assured his supporters Die Linke would be a “strong political opposition”, joking that, as the main opposition party – should the CDU form a grand coalition with the Social Democrats – the press would finally have to pay attention to them.
After inviting the members to go and celebrate, the former East German lawyer left the stage to riotous applause.
Die Linke’s deputy leader Sahra Wagenknecht told The Local: “They [the SPD] brought a candidate to challenge Merkel who no one saw as credible, who could not convince people that he stood for alternative politics, whose whole biography had nothing to do with social awareness, but represented bank bailouts, raising VAT, and tax breaks for the rich, and that of course was a very comfortable situation for Merkel.”
The left-wing party now has more than enough reason to celebrate, as it waves goodbye to one political rival and overtakes another, not to mention winning absolute majorities in four separate constituencies in the capital. While Die Linke are still a long way from government and are likely to stay so, they can legitimately claim to be a serious opposition party.
And celebrate Die Linke most certainly can, and will: the last two hours of their Wahlparty have been one big party, with everyone from party leaders to members of the general public hitting the dancefloor in Berlin’s Kulturbrauerei.
But after the bash, Gysi’s party, it seems, will be returning to their constituencies and preparing for opposition.
Alex Evans/Ben Knight