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Hilde Coffe and Rebecca Plassa, "Party policy position of Die Linke: A continuation of the PDS?" Party Politics, 16 (November, 2010), 721-735. [Available at ]

First paragraph:
Recent German regional (Bundesla¨nder) elections (in Lower Saxony, Hessen and Hamburg, among other places) have produced what many regard as a surprising result: the success of the new leftist party Die Linke. This party was the result of a merging of the PDS (Party of Democratic Socialism; the successor to the Communist Party, SED [Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands]) and the WASG (Wahlalternative Arbeit und Soziale Gerechtigkeit - a break away movement of the Social Democratic Party, SPD). Despite its electoral success in both Western and Eastern Bundesla¨nder, the party is facing several challenges. Joining forces with a political 'opponent' and partner involves the need to build a new party structure, write new statutes, develop a new party programme, and much more. This case study focuses on the ideological challenge Die Linke is facing after its merger. Die Linke has to develop a programmatic and ideological profile with which both merging partners (and their potential voters) can identify. In particular, the aim of the paper is to investigate the position of Die Linke with respect to its central policy issue (economy) and compare the party's position with that of its merging partners. Using a new technique for the computerized analysis of political texts (Laver et al., 2003), we investigate the extent to which the ideology of Die Linke is a continuation of the ideas of the PDS or the result of a balanced compromise between the two merging partners.

Figures and Tables:
Figure 1. Electoral results of the PDS (1990-2002) and DIE LINKSPARTEI.PDS (2005) in federal elections (percentages of valid votes - Zweitstimme) in Western and Eastern Germany
Table 1. Descriptive statistics for manifestos
Table 2. Estimated position on economic left-right dimension

Last Paragraph:
Similarly, the policy stance of the SPD might influence the programmatic choices of Die Linke. This illustrates that although the Die Linke policy stance stems from the influence of its composing partners, it is also the result of influences outside the merged party, such as policy positions of competing political parties and social and cultural change. Indeed, a party does not act in a vacuum; its position is influenced by different social and political changes and interactions. Even though a quantitative method of text analysis, such as Wordscores, cannot capture these influences, we believe that this note offers an interesting contribution to the empirical work on party programmes and illustrates the usefulness of the novel technique of Wordscores. In applying this technique, we hope to have contributed to its improvement, thereby increasing its scientific validity. Besides, this study contributes to the study of political parties and party change. Even though scholars in the field of party organization have recently been focusing on the phenomena of party adaptation and party change, party mergers - that can be considered as an extreme case of a party change - are under-studied at best (Mair, 1990). We believe we have filled some of this gap by investigating one case of a party merger. Although this offered the possibility to investigate and understand the dynamics present within a single setting, a next interesting step would be a comprehensive study investigating and comparing the ideological positioning of different merged parties and their respective preceding political parties. A more comprehensive study could open the way for further testing of our hypothesis, and might help us develop more ideas surrounding our hypothesis on party mergers. Besides, future research might test where Die Linke will go and how it will manage the heterogeneous demands put forward within the party. Our study has shown where different fractions and tensions may occur. Indeed, the differing positions of the WASG and the PDS may articulate programmatic distinctions within Die Linke and lead to bitter disputes if the party further elaborates its policy stance and manifesto in the future.

Last updated October 2010