WORLD: Mr. Poguntke, do you see opportunities for a new party around Sahra Wagenknecht?
Thomas Poguntke: Media prominence due to rhetorical brilliance in talk shows is something different than actually being elected. A party re-establishment requires great effort, many comrades-in-arms and candidates as well as an organizational infrastructure.
When many people say in surveys that they could imagine voting for a party with Ms. Wagenknecht at the helm, that only means – to put it somewhat mockingly – that people can imagine a lot. Nevertheless, such a party would probably have enough appeal to bring the Left Party into existential difficulties nationwide.
WORLD: In addition to the SPD and the Greens, there is no room for two other left-wing parties in the political arena?
Poguntke: Theoretically, there is already room on the left for a traditionally left-wing economic party. Wagenknecht is right that left-wing identity-political positions do not appeal to traditional workers. These milieus are getting smaller, but they are still important.
But it is not enough to have a theoretical constituency. Parties are not skims of voter potential designed on the drawing board. If we look at the history of party secessions, we see that they all came to nothing. The most recent example are the many failed attempts by former AfD politicians.
WORLD: What hurdles do you see for a start-up?
Poguntke: If you set up a new party with a leader who radiates into different camps, then it becomes difficult to prevent people from taking part who are completely ideologically different. Party formations always attract a lot of strange people. You have to reckon with the fact that in some communities in eastern Germany, half of the local AfD association will say, now we're going to join the new party.
By then at the latest, Ms. Wagenknecht would have a real problem with the media. It's a sociological law that newly founded parties attract characters that are difficult to classify. I observed this when the Greens were founded and the Left Party expanded to the west, and also with the AfD. The Greens even had to dissolve an entire state association because it was colored brown. Sahra Wagenknecht will certainly keep an eye on all the difficulties and ask herself whether she wants to do the whole thing to herself.
WORLD: But are there enough politically homeless people for a new left-wing party?
Poguntke: In science, it is actually undisputed that we have three parties that are economically left-wing, but at the same time also strongly emphasize cultural issues, i.e. support strong migration, gender and identity politics. These positions cannot be clearly assigned in a classic left-right scheme, and the people around Wagenknecht see that these issues do not particularly appeal to ordinary employees, especially not in East Germany or the Ruhr area.
It is also clear that these people are more affected by migration policy decisions, for example through competition for cheap housing, than wealthy milieus.
WORLD: Some of those in the Left Party who are willing to secede hope that growing fear of war and opposition to arms deliveries to Ukraine could open a window for a new foundation.
Poguntke: There are certainly points of contact there, but it is questionable whether a foreign policy issue will last in the long term. After a more detailed formulation of concrete demands, many are likely to be frightened again, for example if the party were to position itself on the question of dissolving NATO. This voter potential, which can also be observed at the Berlin rally with Alice Schwarzer, comes from very different political socialization contexts, which is likely to be very difficult to bundle.
And: As soon as a party is actually founded, the political situation changes abruptly. The established parties would immediately counter this with their apparatuses and strategy departments.
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