|Chairwoman of The Left|
|Assumed office |
27 February 2021
Serving with Janine Wissler
|Preceded by||Bernd Riexinger|
|Leader of The Left in Thuringia|
17 November 2013 – 1 March 2021
|Preceded by||Knut Korschewsky|
|Succeeded by||Heike Werner & Steffen Dittes (interim)|
|Leader of The Left in the Landtag of Thuringia|
10 December 2014 – 3 March 2021
|Preceded by||Bodo Ramelow|
|Succeeded by||Steffen Dittes|
|Member of the Landtag of Thuringia|
|Assumed office |
30 August 2009
|Preceded by||Michael Panse|
13 June 2004 – 30 August 2009
13 October 1977
Demmin, East Germany
|Political party||The Left (2007–present)|
PDS (before 2007)
|Alma mater||University of Erfurt|
Susanne Hennig-Wellsow (born Susanne Hennig on 13 October 1977) is a German politician who has been federal co-chairwoman of The Left since 2021. Prior, she served as member of the Landtag of Thuringia since 2004, leader of the Thuringia branch of The Left since November 2013, and leader of the state parliamentary group since December 2014.
Early life and education
Hennig-Wellsow was born Susanne Hennig in Demmin in 1977, then a town in East Germany. Her father did military service in the National People's Army and subsequently worked as a truck driver and police officer. Her mother was a registrar and worked in the Ministry of the Interior from the mid-1990s. Hennig graduated from Erfurt sports high school in 1996. From 1984 to 1999 she was a competitive athlete in speed skating. In 1996 Hennig began studying educational science at the University of Erfurt, which she completed in 2001 as a graduate teacher. Hennig-Wellsow is married, has one child and lives in Erfurt.
In 2001, Hennig began working for the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) parliamentary group as a research assistant for education and the media. In the 2004 state election, she was elected to the Landtag on the PDS party list. Hennig became a member of The Left after the PDS merged into the new party in 2007. At this time, she co-founded the internal Anti-Capitalist Left faction, but later left.
In the 2009 state election, Hennig was re-elected to the Landtag, this time as member for the Erfurt II constituency; she defeated incumbent CDU deputy Michael Panse to win the seat. In November 2011, Hennig became deputy leader of the Thuringia branch of The Left.
At the Left party conference in Suhl held from 16 to 17 November 2013, Hennig was elected leader of the party. She won 76 of 134 delegate votes (56.7%) against two other candidates. She was re-elected to the Landtag as representative for Erfurt II in the 2014 state election, winning 31.0% of votes.
After Bodo Ramelow was elected Minister-President in December 2014, Hennig-Wellsow succeeded him as leader of the Left parliamentary group. At a party conference in Gotha in November 2015, she was re-elected as party leader with 75.4% of votes. This was met with controversy, as it is unusual within The Left for the leadership of both the party and parliamentary group to be held by the same person. An amendment to prevent this practice was proposed but defeated, and Hennig-Wellsow retained both positions. She was re-elected once again in 2017 with 85% of votes. Hennig-Wellsow was re-elected to the Landtag in the 2019 state election with an increased majority of 32.7%. Two weeks later in November, she was re-elected as party leader.
In September 2020, Hennig-Wellsow announced her candidacy for the co-leadership of the federal Left party. She also welcomed the candidacy of Janine Wissler, and expressed her hope for the election of an all-female co-leadership. She stated she will move out of state politics and seek election to the Bundestag if confirmed as party chair. Hennig-Wellsow was elected federal co-chairwoman at a party conference on 27 February 2021, winning 70.5% of votes cast.
Hennig-Wellsow is considered to be on the pragmatic wing of The Left, and describes herself as supporting a "radical Realpolitik". She is particularly open to cooperation with other parties, and has voiced strong support for her party's involvement in the federal government, stating: "If you don't show that you want to govern, you will never succeed." She has expressed preference for a "red-red-green" coalition with the Social Democratic Party and Greens, but stated that her primary goal is a federal government without the CDU/CSU.
Contrary to The Left's longstanding policy, Hennig-Wellsow does not support German withdrawal from NATO. She has also taken a more hostile attitude toward Russia than others in her party, including in regards to Russian actions in Ukraine and Syria and the poisoning of Alexei Navalny.
Hennig-Wellsow is considered adept at negotiation and mediation. As party leader in Thuringia, she played a key role in the formation and development of the red-red-green governments of Bodo Ramelow. She is also noted for her bold, sometimes aggressive tone: during the 2019 state election campaign, she coined the phrase "Bodo or barbarism!", which became a slogan of the Left's campaign. On one occasion during the 2020 Thuringian government crisis, Hennig-Wellsow responded to CDU demands with the message: "Our view remains: the first ballot has to pass with a democratic majority. Otherwise we won't put Bodo Ramelow up. OK. Good day!" Nonetheless, she played a key role in negotiating the "constructive opposition" agreement with the Christian Democrats; Deutschlandfunk described her as "almost the only one who gave the impression that she had a clear plan".
Hennig-Wellsow rose to national prominence during the February 2020 Thuringian government crisis. After Thomas Kemmerich was controversially elected Minister-President with the support of Alternative for Germany, the leaders of the parliamentary groups were invited to congratulate him and present him with a bouquet of flowers. As the leader of the largest group, Hennig-Wellsow was the first in line: however, she refused to shake his hand, instead dropping the bouquet at his feet and walking away in protest. The incident was widely reported nationally and internationally, becoming the most iconic image of the crisis. RND described it as "a moment for the history books".
Hennig-Wellsow was widely criticized for her an interview she conducted on March 4, 2021, during which she asserted that she was against the German military being involved in "combat missions" abroad but was unable to say how many active combat missions Germany was currently engaged in and tried to appeal to a member of staff for assistance answering further questions about current German military activity. Hennig-Wellsow received further criticism for her interview with Markus Lanz, aired on March 31, 2021, during which she struggled to answer basic facts about Die Linke's tax proposals.
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- "Die ist dei Frau, die Kemmerich die Blumen vor die Füße warf". RND.de. 7 February 2020.
- SPIEGEL, Marc Röhlig, Timo Lehmann, DER. "Linkenchefin Hennig-Wellsow blamiert sich in Interview: Bundeswehr abziehen – aber von wo?". www.spiegel.de (in German). Retrieved 3 April 2021.
- admin. "Susanne Hennig-Wellsow makes a fool of herself with Tilo Jung on the Bundeswehr issue". Retrieved 3 April 2021.
- WELT (5 March 2021). "Linken-Chefin Hennig-Wellsow: Will Soldaten abziehen, aber von wo?". DIE WELT. Retrieved 3 April 2021.
- Wunderlich, Curd (1 April 2021). "Markus Lanz: Linken-Chefin Susanne Hennig-Wellsow schwimmt". DIE WELT. Retrieved 3 April 2021.
- "Markus Lanz „zerpflückt" neue Linken-Chefin: „Nicht, dass ich Ihr Programm besser kenne als Sie"". https://www.merkur.de (in German). 2 April 2021. Retrieved 3 April 2021. External link in