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Germany: Sahra Wagenknecht launches new political party

January 8, 2024

The former Left Party politician presented her team at a press conference in Berlin. It aims to defy labels with a mix of left-leaning economic, conservative migration and pro-Russian foreign policy initiatives.

Sahra Wagenknecht with her lips pursed while speaking in front of a blue background at a press conference in Berlin
Sahra Wagenknecht and her party are pitching a populist policy mix ranging from the far-left to the far-right of the political spectrum Image: JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images

Sahra Wagenknecht on Monday, presented her recently announced political party to journalists in Berlin. The "Sarah Wagenknecht Alliance (BSW) — Reason and Fairness," she said, will seek to establish itself as a true people's party and enter its first EU and German state elections this year.

Wagenknecht, who maintained her seat in Germany's Bundestag parliament when she abandoned the Left Party in October, said BSW would work toward overcoming the "incompetence and arrogance" of Berlin's current coalition government, claiming many voters "feel left behind."

Wagenknecht and some 40 former Left Party colleagues will make up the initial core of the party — which will change its name before the next scheduled German national elections in autumn 2025 — and work toward establishing a larger roster of party members to stand for elections across Germany in the near future.

Wagenknecht and former Left Party parliamentary leader Amira Mohamed Ali will lead the BSW and Fabio de Masi and Thomas Geisel will stand as its first candidates when they vie for election to the European Parliament on June 7.

It is unclear which EU group the party will align itself with, as leaders have emphasized that established political labels will not apply to its program.

Wagenknecht: 'Left' has become an empty label

Wagenknecht said the party would avoid calling itself "leftist" as the term has been reduced to questions of "gender and lifestyle," becoming devoid of any real meaning.

To date, BSW has only presented a rough outline of its policies and leaders promised that a vastly more detailed list of aims will be created over the coming months in coordination with citizens and experts.

Observers say BSW, which aims to "change the German party system," could cost the governing Social Democrats (SPD) and the conservative opposition Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) votes, as well as challenging the growing far-right nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD).

The creation of BSW also signals the end of the Left Party that Wagenknecht so prominently represented over the years.

The first test of how well BSW stacks up against AfD will come in state elections this fall in Brandenburg, Saxony and Thuringia — eastern German states where AfD has enjoyed very strong support.

BSW: Left, right, anti-Berlin and pro-Russian

At Monday's two-hour press conference, Wagenknecht railed against the current SPD, Green and FDP coalition, accusing leaders of dividing the nation.

She also voiced support for the aggressive farmers' protests playing out across Germany, saying, "They [the farmers] see a government that has no plan other than to take the money that has already become tighter out of their pockets."

German farmers protesting the prospect of subsidy cuts most recently made headlines by threatening Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck as he sought to debark a ferry in northern Germany last week.

In outlining the party's policies, Wagenknecht and her colleagues said BSW will focus on establishing "social justice" by advocating left-leaning economic policies — job security, higher wages, generous benefits and a revamped tax system; combined with restrictive migration policy.

Wagenknecht said Germany's "current asylum system has failed," adding that conflicts cannot be resolved by granting asylum. Instead, BSW representatives say they believe in conflict resolution.

For that reason, the party has come out against arms sales to countries like Saudi Arabia and has vociferously objected to arming Ukraine in its defense against invading Russian forces.

Moreover, Wagenknecht and her party reject sanctions leveled against Russia over the nearly two years since it launched its war of aggression on neighboring Ukraine in February 2022.

BSW also opposes the NATO military alliance, saying it "contributes to global instability" by creating "a sense of threat" — the main argument Russian President Vladimir Putin used to justify invasions of Georgia in 2008, and Ukraine in 2014 and 2022.

Beyond those issues, BSW also opposes the current coalition's environmental policies, including the phase-out of internal combustion vehicles and the shift toward renewable energy.

The BSW's first party congress is scheduled for January 27 according to its secretary general, parliamentarian Christian Leye.  

Left Party dissolves parliamentary group after defections

js/lo (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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