New German party BSW looks left and right for voters

New German party BSW looks left and right for voters
Опубликовано: Tuesday, 02 April 2024 12:48
The new party of Sahra Wagenknecht (BSW) does not want to label itself as left-wing, centrist or right-wing (Photo: Die Linke)

In Germany, the new splinter party Sahra Wagenknecht Alliance — Reason and Justice (BSW), formed by former members of the leftist Die Linke is poised for significant success in the European elections.

According to polls, the new party could gain more seats than Die Linke and the liberal Free Democrat Party which forms part of the governing coalition. A recent poll from the German Institut Wahlkreisprognose put BSW at 7.5 percent, compared to 2 percent for Die Linke and the FDP at three percent.

  • ‘Tough times for our party,’ said MEP Helmut Scholz from Die Linke (Photo: EU Mission to WTO)

If replicated at the June European elections, the BSW could become the biggest leftist party in the European Parliament.

At the moment, Die Linke with five MEPs is the biggest national delegation in the group The Left.

But even if the BSW is successful in their first European elections, it is unclear what exactly they will do, once elected.

A former star of Die Linke, Sahra Wagenknecht, founded the BSW in January 2024 — and named it after herself. This followed years of internal disputes between Wagenknecht and other Die Linke members about the party line, with the result that the 54-year-old left Die Linke in October.

The new party does not want to label itself as left-wing, centrist or right-wing. As most of the founding members stem from Die Linke, most in the media view the BSW as being in the leftist spectrum and likely members of The Left in the European Parliament after the elections.

But the BSW does not want to confirm this. Asked by EUobserver if they intend to become part of The Left or would prefer to found a new political group in Brussels, the BSW did not respond to several enquiries. They are still believed to be in the process of making preparations and agreements.

At the same time, comments from Fabio De Masi, the party’s lead candidate for the EU elections and former MEP of Die Linke, suggest little enthusiasm for The Left.

During BSW’s first press conference in January, De Masi said that he was not sure that The Left group will continue to exist in the European Parliament in the next legislative period.

For the BSW, it would be crucial to work together with political partners "where we can say that there is a political corridor behind which we can rally," he continued. "I suspect that this would cause problems in the current composition of the group The Left because we are a new political force, but perhaps something new can be found."

Both options could be difficult for BSW. The barriers to forming a new political group are high. 23 deputies from at least seven member states are needed.

And The Left appears to be indifferent to BSW’s arrival in the political landscape. Would they let the BSW join The Left after the elections?

No discussion so far

"The Left in the European Parliament hasn’t discussed this yet and will only do so after the elections", a party spokesperson told EUobserver.

The spokesperson also referred to the fact that as such, having several parties from one member state in the group would not be exceptional, and is already the case for the likes of Portugal and Spain.

"So far, there is no exchange in the group about the BSW," German MEP Helmut Scholz from Die Linke told EUobserver.

In case the new party wants to become part of a new Left group after the elections, it would depend on how far the BSW represents political positions that align with the values of The Left, the spokesperson also said. This includes solidarity with refugees and the right to asylum, workers’ rights, feminism, strong environmental protection policies, and being critical of capitalism.

And so far, the BSW is not on that line. Party founder Sahra Wagenknecht has spoken of "uncontrolled migration" that has to be reduced, noting that asylum procedures should be completed at the EU’s external borders.

The BSW is against a ban on new cars with combustion engines from 2035, a part of the Green Deal that the centre-right European People’s Party is also campaigning against. On the opposite side, the European Left decided at their February party congress in Ljubljana, Slovenia that they want to make climate protection one of the priorities in their election campaign.

Furthermore, Wagenknecht asked that exports of weapons to Ukraine should be ended immediately as well as sanctions against Russia.

With these positions, the new party would be pitching for voters on the right and left of the political spectrum.

When the BSW founded its first regional association in Saxony, an eastern state where the far-right AfD is high in the polls, Wagenknecht refused to rule out working with the AfD.

For her, the only decisive factor would be "whether a demand is right or wrong", she told German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

AfD voters are "in their vast majority no right-wing radicals" but "rightly outraged by out-of-touch politicians," the politician added. Wagenknecht added that working with the Conservatives from the CDU was "conceivable" for her.

’Tough times’ for Die Linke

Wagenknecht was a controversial figure within Die Linke for years before the foundation of BSW.

After being the deputy party chairwoman from 2010 to 2014, she increasingly broke the party line, including pleading for stricter migration politics in Germany. At the same time, she was one of the most prominent faces of Die Linke.

Within Die Linke, Wagenknecht, who has a PhD in economics, was a maverick who often refused to cooperate with other party members, several insiders told EU Observer. When Wagenknecht left the party and launched her own project, there was some relief in Die Linke.

Die Linke has started its campaign for the European elections and important German state polls in Saxony and other states in the east.

The polls are not looking good for them. But as there is no minimum threshold in Germany for European elections, Die Linke is still likely to get several MEPs elected to the new European Parliament.

"Tough times for our party," MEP Scholz said. It is about "regaining trust" now, and "giving new young people a place in the party without sacrificing the commitment of older people, who are an important pillar of our party," he added.

Meanwhile, for Die Linke and the BSW, there are still around three months to convince citizens.