German politician launches new party, poised to challenge right-wing opposition

A high-profile German opposition politician on Monday formally founded a new party that combines left-wing economic policy with a restrictive approach to migration and other positions that some observers believe could help it take votes away from the far-right Alternative for Germany.

Sahra Wagenknecht said her “Sahra Wagenknecht Alliance — Reason and Fairness” will make its electoral debut in the European Parliament election in June. She said she is confident that it also will run in three state elections in September in eastern regions where Alternative for Germany, or AfD, is very strong.

Wagenknecht broke in October with the Left Party, an opposition party in which she was long one of the leading figures, and announced her intention to launch the new venture. She and nine followers who quit the Left Party with her kept their seats in the German parliament.

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Wagenknecht offers a mixture of left-leaning economic policy, with high wages and generous benefits, and a restrictive approach to migration. She also questions some environmentalists’ plans to combat climate change and opposes current sanctions against Russia, which was once Germany’s leading gas supplier, as well as German arms supplies to Ukraine.

Sahra Wagenknecht sits

German Politician Sahra Wagenknecht sits down during the presentation of the party Sahra Wagenknecht Alliance — Reason and Fairness at the Federal Press Conference in Berlin, Germany, on Jan. 8, 2024. The high-profile German opposition politician formally founded a new party that combines left-wing economic policy with a restrictive approach to migration. (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP)

The new party’s real potential remains unclear. But there has been widespread speculation that its positions could appeal to voters who might otherwise choose the nationalist, anti-migration AfD, particularly in the less prosperous, formerly communist east.

Wagenknecht took aim at center-left Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s unpopular government and asserted that many in Germany feel similarly to farmers, who were protesting Monday against a government plan to reduce their fuel subsidies.

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“They see a government that has no plan other than to take the money that has already become tighter out of their pockets,” she told reporters in Berlin.

She rejected left-wing and right-wing labels. Wagenknecht said her party is in a left-wing tradition of working for “social justice” and standing up for people “who have been forgotten for years by politicians,” but that many now associate the left with “gender questions and lifestyle questions, and they no longer feel represented.”

Wagenknecht said the party will retain its current title until the next German national election, due in the fall of 2025, but will later choose a new one that doesn’t include her own name. She and longtime ally Amira Mohamed Ali are its joint leaders.

National polls currently show mainstream opposition conservatives leading and AfD in second place with over 20% support.

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