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The Political Naming Game

DW staff (tkw)
June 23, 2005

As Germany gears up for planned elections in September, parties big and small, old and new are dusting down their soap boxes and sprucing up their images in preparation for the battle ahead.

Farewell to the PDS?Image: dpa

One party in particular which is making the most of the reinvention opportunities somehow inherent to election time, is the successor party to the East German communists, the PDS.

The Party of Democratic Socialism has announced plans to be renamed the "Linkspartei" (Left Party), thus clearing the way to stand in an alliance with the Party for Work and Social Justice (WASG), founded in January by trade unionists and politicians who split from Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's Social Democrats.

PDS Party Chairman, Lothar Bisky announced the renaming plans on Wednesday, saying that the original suggestion to rename the party as "Democratic Left. PDS" had been disallowed under electoral law.

Party leadership urges sense

Although the name "Die Linkspartei" has yet to receive the blessing of party members at the annual conference scheduled for mid-July, Bisky made it clear that blocking the change would only damage the chances of success.

Der PDS Vorsitzende Lothar Bisky
PDS Chairman Lothar BiskyImage: AP

"With the new name, we want to send out a signal that we're starting something new. The historic chance for a joint left-wing party in western and eastern Germany should not collapse over an argument about a name," Bisky said.

But a number of leading PDS politicians beg to differ. Member of parliament Petra Pau told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper "if PDS is on the inside, it should say so on the outside."

Others have indicated that the party leadership will have to bang the drum hard for the new name in order to get the two-thirds majority backing they need for endorsement.

What's in a name?

It might seem like a lot of hot semantic air, but in actual fact there is more to ceremony than this renaming game. It sends a signal to the WASG, which flatly rejects any name containing PDS, that they are serious about the new alliance formed by leaders of the two parties two weeks ago.

Since that time, the joint force has been steadily gaining ground in the opinion polls. A survey published by the Forsa research group this week showed that in the event of an election this Sunday, the alliance would scoop nine percent of the vote, third only to the CDU and CSU and Gerhard Schröder's Social Democrats.

That said, most of those polled conceded that they were still trying to decide how to cast their ballot come September.