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Germany's socialist Left party enters new era as Gysi steps down

The famous German leftist Gregor Gysi has passed the torch to the new leaders of the Left parliamentary faction, Sahra Wagenknecht and Dietmar Bartsch. Gysi's successors aim to bridge divides within the party.

Members of the largest opposition party in the German parliament, the socialist Left, elected the new parliamentary chiefs in a milestone vote on Tuesday.

The 46-year old Sahra Wagenknecht and 57-year old Dietmar Bartsch are taking over from Gregor Gysi, the

party's famous firebrand.

Gysi held the top position between 1990 and 2000, and came back to it again in 2005. His decision not to run again raised concerns over divisions in the party. But both the new leaders represents a political wing within the organization that succeeded the communist party that governed East Germany.

Unity and conflict

While Bartsch has a reputation for being progressive and pushing for the party to

participate in government,

Wagenknecht sides with the hardliners who have deep suspicions about alliances with Germany's mainstream parties.

In addition, the younger Wagenknecht is recognized as the better public speaker and talk-show guest, while Bartsch is considered a better strategist.

Speaking before the Tuesday vote, Bartsch said he expects differences with his co-head Wagenknecht.

"We will not be united on every point," he told "Radio Eins," but added that the leaders agree on "90 percent of the issues," including social and health issues.

"There is no difference there," he said.

'New part' of life

The outgoing parliamentary leader Gysi also expressed his confidence that his successors will be able to work together, as long as they "search for and find a compromise for the party and the faction."

Talking to his colleagues from the parliament, the 67-year old Gysi stated that he "never regretted" his decision to step down.

"I am glad that I have the strength for a new part of my life," he said.

At the same time, Gysi remained the party members that he is only saying goodbye "in one sense of the world" and that he will still be active as a member of the parliament.

"I am staying right here," he said.

dj/bk (AFP, dpa)

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