Germany’s Left Party officially dissolved its parliamentary faction on Wednesday, after one of its former icons, Sahra Wagenknecht, broke away to form a rival populist party.
“It is certainly a historic turning point and of course it is also a bitter defeat,” said Dietmar Bartsch, a Left Party parliamentarian who had served as co-chair of the group.
Members of the Left Party will remain in the German parliament, or Bundestag, but will no longer be part of an official faction, or caucus. Dissolution means the party loses financial support and is forced to liquidate its assets and lay off its staff. The parliamentary rights of its members will also be limited.
The dissolution of the Left Party faction comes after Wagenknecht, the longtime face of the party, resigned in October to form a new protest party, taking nine Left Party parliamentarians with her.
Wagenknecht is among Germany’s most popular politicians and has drifted to the right on several social issues, including migration, creating an ideological crossover with the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). Wagenknecht says his new party will represent voters who are deeply frustrated with mainstream politics.
Wagenknecht also denounced Germany’s military support for Ukraine and called for a restoration of closer relations with Moscow, leading her political opponents to accuse her of being a “Putin sympathizer” – an accusation which Wagenknecht denies. His views on Russia have created deep divisions within the Left Party, some of which traces its roots back to the Communist Party of East Germany.
A minimum of 37 parliamentarians is required for a party to form a faction in the Bundestag. The Left Party now has only 28 deputies.
Bartsch has said he wants to restore the Left Party faction with a successful performance in Germany’s next federal election in 2025. But the party is at just 3 percent in the latest polls, well below the threshold needed to enter Parliament. The party’s prospects for political survival therefore remain very uncertain.
A sign of this uncertainty, the old Bundestag website on the Left now indicates “404 – page not found”.