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Dramatic changes in the German political landscape. Will the new left-wing populist party stop the rise of the far-right?

Updated: Mar 28




The current governing coalition led by the chancellor Olaf Scholz remains extremely unpopular among the voters. According to the recent poll provided by INSA Institute which was published on 27th February, the total support of the three government parties SPD, Greens and FDP is only 33%, which is just 2.5% higher than the support of the largest opposition party CDU/CSU (30.5%). This is a significant drop in comparison to their combined result in 2021 federal election which was 51.5%. The far-right AfD still continues to be popular, keeping the second place after CDU/CSU (19%). However, its support has slightly decreased from 22-23% a month ago. So, is the far-right starting to lose its popularity?  

The possible reason is the recent large protests against the far-right extremism which took place in all major German cities. The protests were caused mainly by the media publications about the secret meeting in November 2023 between several AfD members and the far-right extremists which discussed the possibility of deportation of the millions of Germans with foreign background who are “not assimilated enough”. Despite this, the party remains popular, especially in East Germany where its support is above 30%. It shows that AfD has many loyal supporters and these kinds of statements do not distract them. However, the biggest threat the party faces right now surprisingly comes from the left side. 

The former Left Party top politician Sahra Wagenknecht, who left the party at the end of 2023 due to the disagreements with a party leadership recently has founded her own political project. Wagenknecht was born and grew up in East Germany. In her youth she was a member of the governing Socialist Unity Party (SED). After German reunification she became a member of a communist faction within Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) which was considered as a successor of SED. In 2007 PDS was unified with a small left-wing party WASG to form the new party which was named The Left. For many years Wagenknecht remained a member of Left Party despite having views different from the party policy on the several issues such as immigration policy, COVID-19 and foreign policy. Wagenknecht has a very left-wing views on economic policy, being an opponent of capitalism, however she called for of a stricter refugee policy which is against the Left Party policy. Her conflict with a party intensified after the publication of  Wagenknecht’s book Die Selbstgerechten (Self-Righteous) where she criticized the modern left for having the so-called “left-liberal lifestyle”, being too cosmopolitan and too focused on the issues such as minority rights and identity politics. Wagenknecht accuses them of the ignorance and indifference towards the real problems of the working class. Several prominent members of The Left strongly criticized the book and demanded to expel Wagenknecht from the party. During her political career Wagenknecht has expressed many other controversial views. In the 1990s she published a number of articles where she praised Stalin’s policy and expressed positive views towards German Democratic Republic. Wageknecht is often considered to be a pro-Russian politician. She spoke against the sanctions and called to stop the military aid for Ukraine. However, she has always denied the existence of any ties between her and Kremlin. 

In January 2024 with a group of supporters, also the former members of the Left Party, Wagenknecht has founded a new party Bündnis Sahra Wagenknecht – Vernunft und Gerechtigkeit (Sahra Wagenknecht Alliance – Reason and Justice). BSW combines left-wing economic policy with a restrictive approach towards refugee policy and generally conservative view on social issues. The party has been described as a left-wing populist, left-conservative or even left-wing nationalist. It shares some common positions with AfD in terms of immigration policy and and the views on relations with Russia. However, unlike BSW, AfD is in favour of the free market and liberal economic policy. Despite the similarities between both parties, BSW distances itself from AfD and rejects the possibility of cooperation with them. Being more moderate than AfD, but still maintaining the anti-establishment, populist and anti-immigration rhetoric, Wagenknecht’s party can attract some AfD supporters and other dissatisfied voters who don’t trust the so-called mainstream parties anymore but at the same time consider voting for the far-right to be unacceptable. Opinion polls already demonstrate the success of the new party. BSW support is estimated from 5 to 8% which guarantees the seats in Bundestag. With the continuing dissatisfaction of the Scholz government and radicalization of AfD , Wagenknecht’s party could potentially attract many new supporters and show a good result in the European parliament election in June. 


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