She had a “stomachache,” says Sahra Wagenknecht. I wonder whether everything will go well, whether voters will even find her far down on the long ballot paper. But the first success has come: her coalition Sahra Wagenknecht (BSW) has entered the European Parliament straight away. “We will change politics in Germany,” the chairwoman calls out to her members at the election party in the former GDR premiere cinema “Kosmos.” The hall cheers.

The party is only half a year old – and has already achieved its first electoral success. After the party was founded in January, a functioning party apparatus was set up and a professional election campaign was conducted. Hundreds of interested people flocked to the squares from Stuttgart to Magdeburg to Hamburg to celebrate the party leader.

In addition to this personality cult, most were driven by their fear of a further escalation of the war in Ukraine, which they interpret as weapons deliveries to the invaded country. During the election campaign, the party portrayed the European Union as a bureaucratic and corrupt apparatus under the control of the USA. This evidently reached a Eurosceptic protest milieu that has turned away from the SPD and the Left Party – and for whom the AfD is too extreme.

Long before the party was founded, the current leadership evaluated the chances of electoral success. They saw a gap in representation that combines conservative values ​​and left-wing social policy. Internally, a double-digit result in the European elections was considered realistic early on, but publicly they spoke of a success of just over five percent. The fact that it now reached around six percent is what BSW General Secretary Christian Leye calls “historic” – and clenches his fist in celebration.

The fact that the party’s own clientele tends to be more skeptical of the EU has led to nervousness in the party before the election. People should not stay at home, but take the protest to the voting booth, said Wagenknecht at election campaign events in recent weeks. “The EU is currently a playground for big money,” said top candidate Fabio De Masi at the WELT election party. “Many of our voters have written off Europe because it seems far away to them.” He wants to change that.

The spotlight of the election campaign was on Wagenknecht from the very beginning – and the strategy worked. Although the party leader was not actually running for the European Parliament, she was not only in the party name, but also as the shining face at the centre of the campaign. She was seen on the election posters and appeared as a star speaker at the election campaign events. How long this can be sustained remains to be seen.

The party will now have to build up more faces in Thuringia and Saxony in particular, as there is hardly any way to avoid the BSW if a government is to be formed there. The first real conflict within the party recently emerged from Thuringia. A member of the state executive committee resigned just a week before the election – and this was accompanied by a lot of criticism of the party leadership in Berlin. Too much cronyism, too little participation, a lack of transparency, was his criticism. Some people were nervous about whether this could harm the party in the final stretch of the election campaign. But it apparently did not.

Surveys from recent weeks have shown that there is a particularly high voter potential in eastern Germany. According to initial projections, the party will even achieve double-digit results in the European elections in Thuringia and Saxony. This first notable success underlines the party’s claim to be a top player in the east. Nevertheless, the election campaign also shows, with full seats across Germany, that the support for the young project is much broader.

However, the tone of Wagenknecht’s party became increasingly shrill in the final stretch of the election campaign. The FDP’s top candidate, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, has been known as either “Strack-Rheinmetall” or “Flak-Zimmermann” for some time – but at the BSW election party on Sunday, there was booing when her name was mentioned on the TV program.

During the election campaign, they went one step further: The party warned of a “nuclear poker game” in the Ukraine war in light of possible attacks on positions in Russia and asked: “When will the war drunks in Berlin, Brussels and Washington finally understand what they are risking?” Wagenknecht also immediately linked the devastating floods to support for Ukraine. “Instead of fueling the war in Ukraine with endless billions in tax money, we need the money here to support those affected by storm disasters,” she wrote on X.

Oskar Lafontaine, Wagenknecht’s husband and one of the party’s most prominent faces, even whispered about a possible arrest of CDU politician Roderich Kiesewetter. He has been repeatedly criticized by the BSW after he suggested in an interview that the war in Ukraine should also be fought on Russian soil. Wagenknecht regularly complains about a narrow corridor of opinion, and the party even put up posters with the slogan “Opinion or muzzle?”.

The Left, however, was unable to bring about the hoped-for turnaround. The party did indeed sharpen its profile as a party of left-wing, extra-parliamentary protest movements with its independent top candidate Carola Rackete. However, instead of an electoral success, the party is increasingly losing importance.

When the first bar appears for the Left and shows the disastrous forecast, malicious laughter echoes through the hall of the Wagenknecht election party. For some ex-Leftists in the room, this may be proof that they have chosen the right career path. De Masi does not want to comment on the result of his former party. He wants to talk about the BSW because: “We are the European champions of hearts.”

Wagenknecht does not speak of the Left either. She only explicitly singles out one party. Wagenknecht says she is particularly pleased that the BSW is ahead of “Strack-Zimmermann’s FDP”. A malicious cheer goes through the room. It is a lesson against the war. Germany must not be drawn any further “into this war”. She is certain that a policy “for détente and diplomacy and negotiations” has now been chosen in the Ukraine war.