Sahra Wagenknecht: German politician launches ‘left-wing conservative’ party


Sahra Wagenknecht
Image caption,Sahra Wagenknecht is highly critical of migration

German politician Sahra Wagenknecht has launched a party which she says will appeal to culturally conservative and economically left-wing voters.

The BSW supports a higher minimum wage as well as an end to net-zero policies and weapons deliveries to Ukraine.

Mrs Wagenknecht is one of the best-known figures in German politics and the launch represents a significant change to the political landscape.

The 54-year-old said people were losing faith in mainstream parties.

She was born in communist East Germany, to a German mother and Iranian father, and joined the ruling Socialist Unity Party (SED) in 1989, a few months before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

After German reunification, she joined the successor party to the SED, which eventually merged into the left-wing Die Linke.

Elected first to the European Parliament and then the Bundestag, the German parliament, she grew increasingly strident in her criticism of immigration, particularly after 2015, when about a million people from Syria and other countries arrived in Germany.

“She established a strong reputation and credibility for her anti-immigration positions and cultural conservatism,” says Sarah Wagner, a lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast.

Mrs Wagenknecht’s high profile helped her develop personal support, particularly in eastern Germany.

In October, she quit Die Linke, saying: “the way things are going… our country will be unrecognisable in 10 years.”

Political scientist Cas Mudde says electoral research shows that there is a “significant” electorate with left-wing conservative views. But he adds that “most of these voters care more about their right-wing cultural views than their left-wing economic views”.

The pitch from the BSW – or Alliance Sahra Wagenknecht – will be tested first in the European elections in July.

However, three state elections in eastern Germany in September are likely to provide a stronger indication of how the new party will fare.

Ms Wagner told the BBC that the emergence of the BSW could tempt voters away from the AfD, jeopardising the far-right party’s hopes of coming first in a state election for the first time.

“The AfD is going to be in quite a bit of trouble if this project is successful,” Ms Wagner says.

The far-right party has been hitting record highs in the polls, consistently scoring above some mainstream parties.

The BSW has some €1.4m ($1.5m; £1.2m) funding available at launch, according to its treasurer.

Parties strongly associated with individuals have a poor record in German politics. In 2000, Ronald Schill, a judge, set up an insurgent party, which garnered significant support in Hamburg before collapsing a few years later.

But at least for the foreseeable future, politics in the EU’s largest economy looks to be even further fractured, with voters having the choice between an unprecedented eight major parties.

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