There’s been speculation about this for months: now the German politician has decided to found a party – and he’s taking a risk.
So it should finally start at the beginning of next week. After months of hanging around, Sarah Wagenknecht seems to have decided: she wants to start her own party. She is expected to make the announcement at a federal press conference on Monday, as first reported by Spiegel. Wagenknecht initially did not want to officially confirm or comment on the report. But that probably doesn’t change the fact: within a few days, she and her former party, the Left, will officially become political rivals.
Of course, this competition has existed unofficially for a long time. In recent years, Wagenknecht has been not only the most popular figure on the left, but also its most formidable opponent.
Wagenknecht will first establish an association, “BSW – For Reason and Justice”, which was registered in the register of associations a few weeks ago by people they trust, and is now preparing to found a party that suits their needs. The party’s founding conference is likely to be held at the beginning of next year. This will be in time for you to be able to run on your own list for the first time in the European elections in June 2024.
She always did her own thing
This is evident in the split within the Left Party, which seemed inevitable for some time. Since the party conference was held in Erfurt in June last year at the latest, it was only a matter of time. By then, the last chance to calm the severely deteriorating relationship between the left and the leader of the internal opposition may have passed. However, a clear majority of party members in Erfurt decided in favor of party chairs Janine Fässler and Martin Scherdewan – and thus against the personnel solution that Wagenknecht would have supported.
Even in the then newly elected executive committee of the party, no one from their camp was still represented. This is where Wagenknecht’s story of attempts to exclude her and her people began. In Erfurt, where she was not present, a rumor first spread that she would leave the Left and do her own thing.
Somehow, she always did. Sahira Wagenknecht, 54, joined the Socialist Unity Party in 1989, when large numbers of people were leaving the dissolved Unity Party in the German Democratic Republic. As a die-hard young communist, she drove her practical colleagues on the SPD Executive Council to distraction; As leader of the parliamentary group, she opposed the principle of open borders during the so-called refugee crisis of 2015/2016, and therefore also against international solidarity. This is actually sacred among comrades.
When the left was doing relatively well ahead of the 2021 federal election, with some people even dreaming of participating in government, Wagenknecht wrote a bestseller that was little more than an account for his own shop — and dashed all hopes. What has bothered the left most recently is that, unlike the elected leadership, it has had a permanent place on talk shows and has always represented the opposite of the party line. Therefore, some people longed for the day of separation for a long time.
The left relied on Wagenknecht’s popularity to the end
But the full truth also means that the left relied on Wagenknecht’s popularity until the end. Even for the 2021 federal elections, when a break had long been expected, she was again nominated as the top candidate in North Rhine-Westphalia, even though she grew up in Berlin and lived in the Saarland for a long time. However, the party did not believe it could do without the votes it received in the most populous federal state.
Now the two warring parties are almost over. It won’t be easy for either of them to live with themselves. Not for the left, because the split means the end of the Bundestag is in sight. The party may have to reinvent itself as a small group in the Bundestag, and perhaps even as an extra-parliamentary opposition, after the federal election in 2025.
But Wagenknecht also risks her move toward apostasy. In 2018, with the “Get Up” movement, it had already thwarted a secession attempt. If it doesn’t work out again this time, it will likely be the end of her political career.
In the coming weeks until the start of the year and the generally expected founding party conference of the BSW (presumably: the Sahra-Wagenknecht Alliance), there is likely to be painful separatist pressure on both sides. Wagenknecht and her potential colleagues, including former party leader Klaus Ernst and outgoing parliamentary group leader Amira Mohammed Ali, do not want to leave the left faction voluntarily at the moment. So the question will be whether you can get rid of them. But also about whether you want to kick them out, because that will also be the decision about the end of the group.
Meanwhile, there are also party expulsion proceedings underway against Wagenknecht, which could benefit him more than if she voluntarily returned her party register. Because what happens in the coming weeks could also decide whether Sahira Wagenknecht will go down in history as the sole excavator of the left faction. For all the carefully cultivated hostility, that wouldn’t be right for her.