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Joining Die Partei

August 14, 2009

Shaking up German politics ahead of September's election is Die Partei, a satirical party that, in addition to promising free sunbeds for all, wants to rebuild the Berlin Wall. Gavin Blackburn has this postcard.

Die Partei is doing its best to fight voter apathyImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

Orson Welles as Harry Lime in "The Third Man" famously said: "In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed; they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

DW Korrespondent Neale Lytollis
DW correspondent Neale Lytollis sent us this postcard from BerlinImage: DW

Lime's little delivery from atop a Ferris wheel in Vienna, while perhaps a tad facetious, does make an important point: politics doesn't seem to follow any logical pattern. The most horrendous of political systems can throw up some quite spectacular human achievements while a political utopia can be riddled with corruption and unfairness once you scratch away at the glossy surface.

Despite the fact that I don't vote, I would consider myself to be quite a political person. But then, who isn't? To say, "I'm not interested in or affected by politics" is kind of like saying, "I can well manage to pass a day without oxygen." Politics, whether we actively engage in it or not, is all around us.

I do have some very definite political ideas about things like social welfare, illegal immigration, education, care for the elderly, and social inclusion projects, for example. But despite these convictions, I'm never inspired to go to the polls and vote. However, as a rather talented big-mouth, I am quite content to instigate lengthy and convincing arguments about these topics without really having the slightest idea of what I'm talking about. Not unlike the average politician in fact. And most politicians, as we know, are very definitely average.

Parties these days need to come up with new and exciting ways to engage people and encourage them to exercise their right to vote. The younger generation of Internet addicts have even been motivated to leave their bedrooms and get involved. The Pirate Party, which started life in Sweden, has come up with an agenda which speaks very specifically to young people. Many of their policies are connected with internet privacy and file sharing - issues which young people can identify with. In Sweden, the youth branch of the party, the Young Pirates, now boasts around 21,000 members and the organization already has a strong foothold in Germany. So to raise awareness, you can either be utterly cutting edge and address issues the mainstream parties are reluctant to touch on or ... you can be silly.

Die Partei is a political party founded in 2004 by the editors of Germany's premier satirical magazine, Titanic. Partei is an acronym which roughly translates into English as the Party for Work, Rule-of-Law, Protection of Animals, Advancement of Elites, and Grassroots-Democratic Initiatives. Despite that rather long-winded name, the party has a knowing "nudge-nudge, wink-wink" approach to politics.

Many of its policies are already addressed by other parties: issues such as introducing a new constitution, reforming the health system, and overhauling the existing Hartz IV unemployment benefits. What gives Die Partei the edge is their satirical roots. They spend their working day ribbing politicians and wading through the existing political hogwash. For that reason alone, they could be regarded as being more credible.

However, their manifesto point of wanting to rebuild the Berlin Wall - something which apparently 20 percent of Germans would like to see happen - would be rather embarrassing given that the country is in the grip of commemorating 20 years since they finally got rid of it. But stranger things have happened.

In the UK, the Monster Raving Loony Party, founded by the flamboyant Screaming Lord Sutch, was always the laughing stock of British politics yet despite the apparent silliness of the party's policies, much of what they say makes sense. Their recent manifesto includes such gems as the introduction of a 99 pence coin to save on change, allowing drivers to drive right over the top of a roundabout if there are no other cars present simply because it's more exciting, and the transfer of an MP's 118,000-pound expense account to the poor "so they can waste it." In light of the recent expenses scandals in the UK, the last point alone should be enough to get the Raving Loonies more seats in parliament.

The point seems to be that it's not really the policies that are important, but the way in which they are presented. Most politicians are lucky enough to be blessed with a brain and a modicum of common sense to the extent that they can all, to a greater or a lesser extent, see what is wrong in society and figure out ways to change it. It's the approach to the politics which is important.

BdT 09.11.07 Jahrestag Mauerfall
Die Partei would resurrect the Berlin WallImage: AP

Does politics have to be dreary and depressing, a constant monotonous drone akin to fridge noise, occasionally punctuated by the odd sex scandal? Or can it be bright and colorful, wry and knowing, sarcastic and silly and yet still speak to people and make a difference? I know which one of the two options I'd go for. With the knowing winks of Die Partei and the current campaigning of German comedian Hape Kerkeling's grotesque creation Horst Schlaemmer, Germany is finally getting to grips with a bit of silliness in the otherwise drab world of politics.

But will a flashy new party inspire me to trek to the polling station and cast my vote? Probably not. I'm more content to talk about politics without actually doing anything about it. It seems I have more in common with the average politician than I initially thought.

Gavin Blackburn, Berlin (dc)
Editor: Rob Turner