Although many may be unfamiliar with Sahra Wagenknecht outside of Germany, she often dominates the political discourse within the country. Known as being anti-woke, skeptical of immigration, and opposed to sending weapons to Ukraine, she became increasingly popular with German voters even if at the same time, a sizeable faction of the Left Party’s leadership wanted her gone.
Now, following Wagenknecht’s announcement that she will no longer run for the Left Party (Die Linke) after this legislative period, the party’s leaders have signaled their relief.
“She hasn’t been doing politics for the left for a long time,” said party deputy leader Katina Schubert. She said that Wagenknecht “has been working on her own account for a long time,” and her whole business model is “to agitate against the party, her whole book is based on it.”
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Wagenknecht has long set herself against her party, or at least the young urban elite wing of the left. There were already voices calling for her expulsion after she released her book entitled “The Self-Righteous” (“Die Selbstgerechten”), where she delivered sharp criticism against some of her fellow leftists – namely those belonging to what she refers to as the “lifestyle left” – who she insists care only about the politics of identity, gender, climate change and sexual minorities.
Since then, tensions have only risen due to Wagenknecht’s stance against Germany sending weapons to Ukraine and supporting sanctions that she argued were harming the German economy and its working class. The party’s leadership, for example, denounced her in the Bundestag after she described the Western sanctions against Russia as an “unprecedented economic war.”
Recently, she co-wrote a “Manifesto for Peace” with author and feminist Alice Schwarzer, which was signed by over 700,000 people, including German academics, politicians, activists and intellectuals. Her corresponding anti-war demonstration was held in Berlin earlier this month.
Will Wagenknecht found a new party?
Wagenknecth’s announcement that she is leaving the Left Party may be only the beginning of the story. Rumors have swirled for some time that Wagenknhecht would form her own party, and she may have a strong incentive to do so. While she may be unpopular with the Left Party’s leadership, she was extremely popular with the rank-and-file members of the Left Party, particularly in the east of Germany. Her popularity left the party leadership unable to take action against her out of fear that it could implode the party.
This fear may have been well justified. According to polling from Kantar, a new party from Wagenknecht could earn up to 19 percent of the vote. As Remix News has previously reported, she often polls as one of the most popular politicians in Germany. The Kantar poll also found that 50 percent of the Left Party’s voters would consider voting for her. However, it is not only the Left Party that’s worried about a Wagenknecht party. The same poll found that 60 percent of Alternative for Germany (AfD) party voters could see themselves voting for Wagenknecht as well.
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Not everyone in the Left Party is happy to see Wagenknecht go. Bundestag MP Klaus Ernst, who is an ally of Wagenknecht, expressed his concern on Twitter: “It’s a shame that my party is disappearing into political insignificance. However, the encouragement that Sahra Wagenknecht receives shows us that prosperity, justice and peace are topics that will always be very popular. Or is the party leadership going into decline?”
He cited a poll from WK that showed Wagenknecht’s party would receive 14 percent of the vote and the Left Party only 2 percent, which would be a result low enough to kick the Left Party from the Bundestag. According to this specific poll, AfD does not appear to be particularly harmed by a Wagenknecht party, earning 13 percent of the vote.
Despite Wagenknecht’s popularity, it is far from certain whether she will launch her own party.
On Friday last week, Wagenknecht told Rheinpfalz newspaper that she either wants to withdraw from politics and work as a publicist and author, “or something new will arise politically.” In other words, she may be on the verge of political retirement.
The 53-year-old has been a member of the Bundestag for the Left Party since 2009, and between 2015 and 2019, she was co-chair of her parliamentary group. She currently serves as an MP for North Rhine-Westphalia.
Wagenknecht is also known for her opposition to immigration, writing in her book, “They talk about immigration as a great asset, but at the same time they work hard to ensure that their own children go to schools where they only get to know other cultures through literature or art classes.”
In the same book, she wrote that an individual on the “lifestyle left” regards the “nation-state to be an obsolete model and himself a citizen of the world who has little in common with his own country. “(They) find traditional values such as performance, diligence, and effort uncool.”