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Could Germany's new left-wing conservative party seduce AfD's voters in European elections?

Sahra Wagenknecht poster hanging in Hamburg
Sahra Wagenknecht poster hanging in Hamburg Copyright Donogh McCabe
Copyright Donogh McCabe
By Liv Stroud
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A newcomer to German politics, BSW was formed in January of this year but has already won its first victory in the right-wing hotspot, Thuringia. Experts predict that the party could seduce far-right voters in upcoming European elections.

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Self-described left-wing conservative politician Sahra Wagenknecht splintered off from the German Die Linke party last year to form her own. 

The Sahra Wagenknecht Alliance — Reason and Justice (BSW) and its pledge to stop weapon deliveries into Ukraine now promise to split the AfD vote, potentially winning seven seats in the Europan elections in June.

A former MEP and Bundestag deputy since 2009, Wagenknecht also advocates for raising the minimum wage to €15 per hour and wants to water down climate change policies. 

Many see the party as a good alternative to the far-right parties that threaten to sweep up votes in the European Parliament.

During her speech at the kick-off event for her EU vote campaign in Hamburg two weeks ago, Wagenknecht capitalised on the cost of living crisis that has been rocking much of Europe.

"I read that Mr Scholz, the Chancellor of our country, tells us there are no problems, 'Crisis? What crisis? The economy is growing. Future investments are flowing into Germany,'" she bellowed out, much to the audience's applause.

Many, including those who support the far right, have criticised the current traffic light coalition for the way they have been allocating the budget. Wagenknecht also condemns weapons delivery to Ukraine and urges negotiations with Putin. 

"No, weapons don’t bring peace, weapons bring more war and weapons bring more death. That’s the reality," she said.

BSW wins in far-right hotspot

The leading BSW candidate Fabio De Masi also denounced the government, alluding to corruption at the federal level and pointing to the missing text messages between European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and Pfizer chief Albert Bourla during COVID-19 vaccines negotiations.

De Masi also demands transparency for stock purchases from politicians.

"I am certain, just like with the banking deals during the big crisis, there will be some politicians who bought Rheinmetall shares. That is why we, as the Sahra Wagenknecht Alliance, demand that stock transactions by politicians must be made public," he said.

"This European election is also a chance to show the red card to the traffic light coalition. But not in the way that many people in Germany do out of desperation by voting for the AfD — a party that stirs up resentment, a party that wants to cut wages and pensions, and a party that advocates for increased militarisation in Germany. This is not the way to go," De Masi added.

The BSW rally in Hamburg, May 2024
The BSW rally in Hamburg, May 2024Donogh McCabe

Wagenknecht's strategy of promising higher taxes on large companies and wealthier people seems to be working. 

The newly formed party won its first victory in local Thuringia elections — the first vote it ran in.

Although the party is only a few months old, it has already appointed its first mayor in the small town of Bleicherode with 56.6% of the votes. Thuringia, the central German federal state, is a traditional stronghold of the far right.

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'This cannot continue'

Many of the people at the campaign rally in Hamburg Euronews spoke to said they were either definitely going to vote for the BSW or weren't sure but found Sahra Wagenknecht "clever" and "reasonable". 

Several spoke of Germany "going down the drain" if the current government and political climate continues. Almost all of them supported Ukraine peace negotiations and stopping weapon deliveries to Kyiv.

"Many things Sahra Wagenknecht says are true, unfortunately,"  one retiree who said she worked for 40 years told Euronews. 

"This party was created because sensible politics were not done. In 2015, they [Merkel's government] opened the country [to migrants] and said, 'Come here.' And since then, nothing significant has happened. They talk about skilled workers, but all sorts of people come. This cannot continue. The economy is collapsing, and as Sahra Wagenknecht says, the Greens dictate how people should live," she continued.

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The BSW could become the top far-left force in the European Parliament seeking to form a left-wing faction, but Wagenknecht has already made it clear that she does not see eye to eye with some of its members, “for example, in terms of migration”, which she vehemently opposes.

The topic has repeatedly caused feuds between Wagenknecht and Die Linke, as the former has taken a hard-line stance on immigration. This could make it tricky to form a left-wing bloc after the elections in just a few weeks and could potentially spell trouble in the European Parliament.

Wagenknecht herself said her policies are “left-wing conservative,” marrying socialist economic policies with conservative attitudes towards immigration.

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