An influential German leftist politician has officially launched a new populist movement on Monday (23 October), hoping for European election success next June on a platform opposing further EU integration and in favour of cheap Russian energy.
Sahra Wagenknecht was previously a member of the leftist die Linke party but clashed repeatedly with its leaders over the party’s direction, which she claimed was too focused on minority politics rather than economic justice.
On Monday, Wagenknecht officially announced her split from the party alongside a number of allies as she unveiled her new Alliance Sahra Wagenknecht (BSW) in Berlin, with which she is looking to appeal to frustrated voters on the left and right.
Asked by Euractiv, Wagenknecht made it clear that BSW would campaign against the centralisation of power in Brussels in the 2024 EU elections.
“We don’t think that more and more competences should go to the European Commission – the European Commission is close to corporate lobbyists and far from citizens,” she told reporters in Berlin, adding that she wished for “more decisions to be made in the member states“.
Europe was in “a relatively sad” state, Wagenknecht said, fearing that it would be “pulverised between the United States and China” if it did not move toward an unaligned foreign policy.
Wagenknecht is thus strongly opposed to sanctions on Russia and advocates an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine, vowing on Monday that she would ensure “that Germany gets cheaper energy again”.
“I wonder why other countries have no problem with importing Russian oil and gas (…), it seems more natural to use [Russian] pipelines, because it would be much cheaper,” she said.
The movement was off to a good start as around 12% of Germans said they would vote for the party, according to a new Insa poll from Monday.
Wagenknecht, who is well known through her presence on chat shows and social media, could draw support not just from the left but also among supporters of the far-right AfD, political scientists pointed out.
Her mix of socially conservative and socialist-leaning economic policies is popular among anti-establishment and right-leaning voters, political scientist Constantin Wurthmann told Euractiv in a recent interview.
Sketching her ideas on Monday, Wagenknecht promised that she would push for more redistribution and protect SMEs against big corporations while being tough on irregular migration and “blind” environmental policies, something she said Germany’s “worst government in history” was failing at.
Party group membership uncertain
However, it is yet unclear which bloc BSW would align with in the European Parliament.
The Left in the European Parliament, perhaps the most natural candidate, is headed by Martin Schirdewan, who also leads die Linke, making a collaboration unlikely.
Wagenknecht’s former party has been exasperated by her repeated attacks on the leadership.
Schirdewan said on Monday he was “personally disappointed” with the defectors as they had damaged the party. He called on them to return their seats in the German parliament to die Linke.
The party faces a critical threat from BSW as the defections could cost the party its group status in parliament and affiliated financial privileges as well as a significant number of votes.
In Europe, BSW may then be forced to join a number of unaligned parties including the populist Movimento 5 Stelle from Italy or a right-leaning group, as creating a new party group would require delegations from seven other EU countries.
Decisions about party group membership and potential candidates would be settled after the party’s official registration, which is scheduled for January 2024, Wagenknecht said.
[Edited by Benjamin Fox/Zoran Radosavljevic]
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