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Socialist Left party finally elects leadership

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Photo: DPA
10:06 CEST+02:00
After an extremely contentious day in which leading German Left party politicians said the socialist party risks destroying itself, the rank and file finally chose a new leadership on Saturday.

Katja Kipping, the former vice chairman of the party and Bernd Riexinger will lead the Left as it tries to sort out fundamental philosophical differences that threaten to tear it apart.

Sahra Wagenknecht, a leading Left politician and partner of Oskar Lafontaine, a former party leader and co-founder, decided not to run for the top spot and was confirmed in her post as deputy chairman.

In many emotional speeches leading up to the vote by 550 delegates present at the party congress in Göttingen, central Germany, leaders warned of an impending implosion of the Left if the party cannot overcome its differences.

Gregor Gysi, head of the party's parliamentary faction, spoke of “hate” among the two key fractions in the Bundestag delegation and “arrogance” on the part of the west politicians.

“We’re destroying ourselves,” he said. “The good proposals are not getting through – only the quarrels and the drama.”

The Left party has been conducting a public fight among its leading politicians for some time, pitting the more ideological leftists in the western part of the country with a more pragmatic-oriented approach from its eastern politicians.

The quarreling has been disasterous for them in the polls, where the party failed to reach the five percent hurdle for parliamentary representation in key state elections earlier this year.

The new leaders Kipping und Riexinger replace Klaus Ernst und Gesine Lötzsch. Lötzsch resigned a few weeks ago for personal reasons and Ernst did not seek re-election.

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Kipping, 34, had campaigned with Katharina Schwabedissen, but she unexpectedly withdrew her bid on Saturday. Riexinger is a Lafontaine supporter and advocate of a more ideological leftist position.

The two said however that they are committed to ironing out the east-west differences and want the discussion to end and the party to move forward.

DPA/The Local/mw

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