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New direction for Germany's Left Party following Magdeburg conference

The "Die Linke" party conference has come to an end with the party positioning itself in stark opposition to all other political movements. Leadership elections confirmed incumbent party heads in their current positions.

The highlight of the left-wing "Die Linke" party's annual congress was probably when the party's parliamentary chairwoman Sahra Wagenknecht was

hit in the face by a piece of chocolate cake

during the conference - at least for some.

Members of the antifascist group "Torte für Menschenfeinde" (which translates as "Cake for Misanthropists") took responsibility for the attack, accusing Wagenknecht of assuming an anti-refugee stance, similar to that of the far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD), saying publicly that Germany could not become host to all refugees migrating to Europe.

But business continued as usual despite the attack, with Wagenknecht announcing that the party was ready to take on all other political movements in Germany, more than one year ahead of the earliest date when Germany is due to hold its next federal elections. Wagenknecht said the party would position itself as an alternative to other parties, while not discussing in how this might be accomplished.

"Die Linke is needed," she announced in front of 580 delegates at the party conference in Magdeburg, adding that the party would rule out considering being part of a three-way government coalition with two other left-of-centre parties, the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Green Party.

Her predecessor, Gregor Gysi, had suggested that the three parties could decide on a candidate for next year's polls together, thus forming a coalition of sorts ahead of the polls already.

Making "neoliberal" enemies

Wagenknecht brandished the SPD, which currently rules as part of a grand coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) party, as growing increasingly "neoliberal" along with the CDU.

She went on to blame the rise in rightwing movements like PEGIDA and the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party on the alleged "neoliberal policies" that the grand coalition and the preceding coalition between the CDU and the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) party in her view have been propagating.

Sahra Wagenknecht

Wagenknecht left the conference for three hours after being slammed in the face with the piece of cake

The SPD and Die Linke, a party that arose out of the communist SED party in East Germany after its collapse in 1990, have historically shared some common ground, and have governed together at state level in the past. The new leader of Die Linke, however, appears to want to divorce herself from the current leadership of the social democrats.

"If the leader of the SPD was (UK Labour Party leader) Jeremy Corbyn or (US presidential candidate) Bernie Sanders, we'd love the idea of supporting such a candidate as Chancellor. But we can't change the SPD. It is what it is," Wagenknecht added.

Voters defecting to AfD

Meanwhile, the party reelected its leadership for the 2017 elections, reconfirming Katja Kipping and Bernd Riexinger as its leadership duo. Both leaders received roughly three quarters of the votes of all participating party members. Despite hinting at running for the federal elections next year with a radically overhauled party program, no details emerged from Kipping nor Riexinger as to how exactly the party leaders would stand out at the polls.

The party is likely to lose votes, especially in East Germany, to the AfD, which has been gaining momentum since the onset of the refugee crisis last year. A large number of voters, who previously gave their vote to Die Linke as a form of protest against old-established politics, are expected to

defect to the newly-formed rightwing party

.

ss/jr (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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