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Bartsch und Wagenknecht
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/O. Berg

New leadership duo for Germany's Left party

June 9, 2015

Germany's leftist party, "Die Linke," appears to have moved closer to replacing Gregor Gysi, who has announced plans to step aside as parliamentary leader. A leadership duo looks the most likely solution.


According to a report by Germany's DPA news agency, Gysi's deputies Sahra Wagenknecht and Dietmar Bartsch (pictured above) met Tuesday with Left party chairs, declaring their willingness to lead the party as a pair.

While the party offered no confirmation of the report, a spokeswoman said an official proposal is expected to be put forward by party chairs Katja Kipping and Bernd Riexinger next week.

"The two party chairs will discuss these proposals on Monday with the executive board and will then make a proposal," the spokeswoman told DPA.

Under the Left's party rules, the chairs have the right to nominate candidates. A leadership vote will then be held in mid-October.

Although Bartsch and Wagenknecht belong to different party factions, they have worked together as party deputies under Gysi, and are seen as the strongest contenders to replace him. A number of influential party representatives have also endorsed the pair. Rico Gebhardt, chairman of the Left in the eastern state of Saxony, told public broadcaster MDR he was confident Bartsch and Wagenknecht would work well together.

"There's also enough scope for flexibility between them," he said, describing Bartsch as a "good organizational talent," and the more overly left-wing Wagenknecht as a "poster child" who could "mobilize the masses."

Wagenknecht, 45, is considered both the face of the party's more left-leaning flank, and by many as a gifted speaker. Fifty-seven-year-old Bartsch is one of the party's most experienced strategists. He was treasurer of Die Linke's predecessor, the Party of Democratic Socialism, from 1991 to 1997 and then served as national director until 2010.

Time for new leaders

Gregor Gysi, who has led the Left party since 2005, announced his plans to step down on Sunday at the party's conference in the northwestern German city of Bielefeld.

Gregor Gysi
Gysi, one of Germany's best known politicians, announces plans to step downImage: picture-alliance/dpa/O. Berg

"The time has come to put the chairmanship in younger hands," the 67-year-old said, adding that it would be the last time that he would speak at a party conference as party leader.

With 64 members in the lower house, or Bundestag, the Left is currently Germany's largest opposition party, one seat ahead of the Greens. This is the upshot of the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats joining forces in a so-called Grand Coalition, meaning the government holds 504 of the 631 seats in the Bundestag at present.

nm/msh (dpa)

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