Janine Wissler and Martin Schirdewan were elected party chairmen at the federal party conference in Erfurt on Saturday. Both prevailed in the first ballot with an absolute majority against several competitors. They are considered real politicians who get along well with each other. They are supposed to lead the left out of the crisis after electoral defeats and trench warfare.

The 41-year-old Hessin Wissler received around 57.5 percent of the votes, the Berliner Schirdewan 61.3 percent. Wissler campaigned for himself on Friday with a combative speech at the beginning of the party conference. She admitted mistakes and at the same time campaigned for a renewal of the party. Wissler has only been at the top of the left since February 2021. Her co-chair, Susanne-Hennig Wellsow, resigned in April.

Schirdewan has now been elected to the second position in the dual leadership. The 46-year-old is the co-chairman of the left in the European Parliament. He said in his application speech that he had experience “directing and leading a motley collection of leftists”. Officially, he competed for the Thuringian state association.

Die Linke has also decided to downsize its party executive from 44 to 26 members. The aim is to make the body more effective and thus also to upgrade it, said the outgoing federal manager Jörg Schindler. The necessary majority of around 570 delegates supported the change immediately before the new election of the party executive.

In a previous speech, the long-time leader of the left parliamentary group, Gregor Gysi, painted a bleak picture of the state of his party. “I can’t think of any real congratulations on our 15th birthday, because we are in an existential crisis,” says Gysi. The left must rethink what its purpose for society is and then orientate itself towards that.

Gysi complained about the polyphony in the party. It is no longer recognizable what the majority and what the minority opinion is, said the former parliamentary group leader. He also complains about a “climate of denunciation” and the public trench warfare. “Our argument is in the media before it even happened.” He added, “Stop the petty crap.”

In Erfurt, the Left also wants to determine its highly controversial position on Russia and its war of aggression in Ukraine.