A German far-left politician will launch on Tuesday a cross-party movement called “Stand up”, modelled on the populist campaigns of US Senator Bernie Sanders and Britain’s Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Its declared goal is to counter the “neoliberal policies” of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centrist coalition government and fight for secure jobs and pensions, environmental protection, and “a true democracy not ruled by banks, corporations and lobbyists”.
Its founders hope to energise and unite in a grassroots movement followers of Germany’s three leftist parties, but also win back disenchanted working-class voters who have drifted to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).
The project is the brainchild of Sahra Wagenknecht, 49, of the far-left Die Linke party and her husband Oskar Lafontaine, 74, a firebrand socialist, ex-finance minister and defector from the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD).
Wagenknecht, who will present the project at a Berlin press conference (0830 GMT), hails from the former communist East Germany. She is a polarising TV talk show star, known as rhetorically brilliant but sometimes awkward with voters.
She has courted controversy by frequently criticising the European Union and defending Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
She has also broken with the left’s traditional orthodoxy on immigration by arguing that “economic immigrants” take jobs from low-income Germans and strain public services — a position closer to the far right.
However, unlike the anti-Islam AfD, she has not railed against immigrants and refugees in general and defends Germany’s asylum law, especially for those escaping persecution and human rights abuses in their homeland.
“The idea of ‘open borders for all’ is unrealistic,” she explained in a recent interview.
“If the core concern of leftist politics is to represent the disadvantaged, then the no-borders position is the opposite of being on the left.”