A leading German radical-left politician who has questioned the green transition and blamed the west for Russia’s war on Ukraine has left her party to set up a new one, in a move likely to cost the far right votes and further fragment the nation’s politics.
Sahra Wagenknecht, the charismatic former co-leader of the far-left Die Linke, said on Monday that the new association – named after herself – would court unhappy voters on the left and right, starting with next June’s European parliament elections.
“Many people no longer know who to vote for, or they vote for the right out of rage and despair,” said Wagenknecht, 54. “Things can’t continue like this. Otherwise we probably won’t recognise our own country in 10 years’ time.”
Polls suggest that amid a cost of living crisis, wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, and mounting discontent with the centre-left coalition of the chancellor, Olaf Scholz, the Bündnis (Alliance) Sahra Wagenknecht (BSW) could win up to 20% of the national vote.
Wagenknecht, who was born in the former East Germany to an Iranian father and German mother, denounced “unchecked migration” – which she said was aggravating “problems … in poor neighbourhoods” – as well as “blind, haphazard eco-activism that makes people’s lives more expensive without doing anything to help the climate”.
She has previously said that Nato and the west were responsible for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has opposed sending arms to Kyiv and imposing sanctions on Moscow, and has called for a negotiated solution to the conflict, a position she denied made her “pro-Russian”.
Economic sanctions against Russia had “cut us off from cheap energy without viable alternatives”, she said on Monday, adding that Scholz’s government had abandoned “the important tradition of detente” and conflicts “cannot be resolved militarily”.
During the Covid pandemic, Wagenknecht also regularly fanned doubts about government measures to control the spread of the virus.
Most polls put the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has surged in popularity on the country’s economic downturn and fears over migration, on about 20%, second to the centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) on about 30%.
The three ruling parties – the chancellor’s centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), the pro-business FDP and the Greens – are on a combined 30%-35%. Scholz’s spokesperson said on Monday he was “happy we live in a free country where parties can be founded”.
The most obvious impact of Wagenknecht’s departure, along with nine other MPs, from Die Linke is likely to be a further weakening of the party, which has long suffered from infighting and could fall below the 5% vote share threshold needed to enter the Bundestag.
But many analysts said that with three state elections due next year in east Germany, where support for Die Linke has steadily declined over the years and AfD is at its strongest, BSW primarily represented a threat to the resurgent far-right party.
“The Wagenknecht party will skim off AfD votes – what we’re seeing is an alternative to the Alternative for Germany,” Andrea Römmele, a professor and political scientist at Berlin’s Hertie School of Governance, told the public broadcaster ZDF.
Dr Benjamin Höhne, a political scientist at the University of Münster, told ARD television that the “niche BSW is opening up – stressing social justice, and at the same time … [Wagenknecht] positioning herself in a more migration-sceptical way – has potential”.
Mathieu von Rohr of Der Spiegel said there “could be a gap in the market for [Wagenknecht’s] mix of anti-Americanism, Putin apologism, socialism, migration scepticism as well as her openness to conspiracy theories”.
Source : The Guardian