Sahra Wagenknecht’s party is under time pressure in East Germany

Sahra Wagenknecht’s party is under time pressure in East Germany

Sahra Wagenknecht’s BSW is hoping for quick success in the next elections. But in Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg, of all places, the preparatory work is going slowly. Is the new party not fast enough?

The Sahra Wagenknecht alliance’s list for the state elections was actually supposed to be drawn up in Thuringia on the first Saturday in May. Of course with Sahra Wagenknecht. She was born in Jena in 1969 and is therefore – as the Berliner from Saarland likes to say often – also a real Thuringian.

But the party conference in her country of birth is not taking place for the time being. It was postponed. Officially from the BSW, this is not a problem at all. The list party conference was scheduled for a very early date “so that we have leeway,” says Carsten Leye, the general secretary of the federal party, when asked star. Now the scope is being used. All good then.


The AfD has recently tried what the BSW is planning at this pace. The party was founded in February 2013 in order to run for the federal election just over six months later. At that time it failed to pass the five percent hurdle and only entered the Saxon state parliament for the first time a year later.

Wagenknecht must be warned, especially since time is even more pressing for her. Because it’s a super election year. Parallel to the European elections on June 9th, local elections will take place in eight federal states, and in Thuringia even two weeks earlier. And then, almost three months later, the state parliaments will be elected in Saxony and Thuringia on September 1st. The Brandenburg state parliament follows on September 27th.

The European elections campaign is underway

Until then, the Wagenknecht party must field hundreds of candidates and submit the proposals on time. And it has to collect signatures in the states, but also in each individual constituency, with the signatures having to be compared individually by the residents’ registration offices.

At least the Wagenknecht party seems to be completing its preparations for the European elections on time. The top candidates Fabio De Masi and Thomas Geisel lead a long list. The posters, which mainly show the namesake, who is not even running, are ready. Around three million euros should be available for the campaign. There is no 5 percent hurdle for the EU Parliament, which is why it is not dramatic that the poll numbers fluctuate between 4 and 7 percent.

But in the state election states things are progressing more slowly than originally planned. While the list election in Thuringia was postponed until June 1st, in Brandenburg not even a state association has been founded yet.

We are building a party from below. We didn’t have any structures there.

Secretary General Leye, who left the Left parliamentary group together with Wagenknecht at the end of 2023, appeals for understanding. “We are building a party from below,” he says. “We had nothing in the way of structures there.” Things are going “very well” with “highly motivated employees and supporters”. But: “You can’t tie flowers to it, it’s a hell of a job that we’re doing.”

Sabine Zimmermann, who leads the regional association in Saxony, also says this. “The time pressure is enormous.” The state election program is a particular challenge: “It is written day and night, and the word about night is meant literally.”

Like Leye, Wagenknecht and most of the other BSW top people, Zimmermann comes from the left; she sat in the Bundestag for her old party during the entire Angela Merkel era. This makes her one of the few professionals in the Saxon regional association, which, according to her, only has 65 members.

Minimalism is part of the strategy. Although there are thousands of interested parties nationwide, the party wants to grow slowly and in a controlled manner. This is the only way, it is said, to keep troublemakers and extremists out of the party – although as an allegedly unintended side effect, the competition in the list elections remains pleasantly clear. Even without the limit, the internal scramble for promising places seems big enough.

But the price of the strictly curated recording is that program work and party building only have to be done by a few dozen people. At the same time, the BSW is finding it difficult to find qualified party employees. The shortage of skilled workers is particularly great in political operations.

In this year’s main battleground, Thuringia, where the BSW is running against left-wing Prime Minister Bodo Ramelow and AfD leader Björn Höcke, only a little more than 40 members belong to the party. The overwhelm is obvious. Nevertheless, Katja Wolf is optimistic. The mayor of Eisenach, who was a member of the PDS and the Left for more than two decades, is considered a stroke of luck for the BSW. With her image as a real politician, she softens Wagenknecht’s brutal populism and complements it with local political pragmatism. Thanks to her official experience, Wolf is also able to talk in almost all directions – and still credibly embodies the demarcation from the AfD.

The current mayor, who is considered the top candidate, does not want to see any problem in the postponement of the party conference. “The construction process is exciting and strenuous,” she says, but it’s going “well overall.” The fact that the list election takes place a little later is mainly due to “the fact that we take the program work seriously and also coordinate with the state associations in Saxony and Brandenburg.”

Sahra Wagenknecht’s party as an alternative to the AfD

Secretary General Leye also says that the programs need to be harmonized. If the party in country 1 wanted something completely different than in country 2 or country 3, “that would of course be highly unprofessional,” says Leye.

What motivates the party is the current political thermals. In the surveys, the BSW in Saxony and Brandenburg is measured at 11 percent. In Thuringia it is even up to 17 percent.

In the end, Wagenknecht relies less on the program than on himself as a person and on the protest against the traffic lights in Berlin. In doing so, she stylizes herself as an alternative to the AfD, which is currently having to hide its scandalous EU top candidate Maximilian Krah in the election campaign.

“The BSW gives voters the opportunity to protest against these bad policies without having to vote for a party in which there are neo-Nazis and right-wing extremists,” said the leader of the party that bears her name at the EU’s presentation this week -election campaign. As she recited the sentence, a larger-than-life portrait of her appeared behind Wagenknecht.

Source: Stern

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