Tag Archives: partei

The PARTEI has started!

30 Jul

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If you ever find yourself in the EU Parliament’s gargantuan chamber in Strasbourg, look toward the back. No, further back – in the last few rows on the far right. This is the area reserved for the xenophobic wackos who aren’t in any parliamentary group. But in their midst, on seat 694, between the neoliberal AfD from Germany and the neofascist FPÖ from Austria, sits Martin Sonneborn.

Wearing the grey suit of a bureaucrat and the noncommittal smile of a politician, the 49-year-old Sonneborn doesn’t look out of place. “We’re not the craziest ones in the European Parliament,” he says. Marine Le Pen of the Front National, just one row ahead, won the European elections in France with diatribes against immigrants and globalization. Sonneborn’s Die PARTEI, in contrast, got their seat with a promise to “overcome substance” (Inhalte überwinden).

Die PARTEI was founded 10 years ago by editors of the satirical magazine Titanic. They wanted to re-build the Wall and crossed every ‘t’ for establishing a political party. After years of slow progress, their breakthrough came at the European Elections of 2014 after Germany’s Constitutional Court ruled to abolish the three percent hurdle for EU elections. The reasoning? Since the EU Parliament can’t decide much anyway, it can’t hurt to fill it with small parties.

Now Sonneborn can make EU politics interesting. Daily life in Strasbourg seems to consist of endless horse trading to fill positions, interrupted by speeches in front of a mostly empty chamber. It seems that many parliamentarians don’t find it too thrilling either and thus don’t bother to show up to work. The discussions about byzantine regulations are mostly theatre anyway, since important decisions in the EU are made by the Commission, not the Parliament. And any attempts to make it look interesting just result in face palms.

That’s why Sonneborn, while taking selfies with his right-wing neighbours, is quite open about his goal to get as much money as possible. The original plan, to have each representative resign after one month and then collect six months of transitional pay, has apparently fallen through due to red tape. But Sonneborn isn’t giving up: “We’ll bring them a 60 PARTEI cadre to Brussels – whether as office managers, interns or EU Commission Presidents.” He has given his word that he will get material benefits for his underlings.

The real question is how much satire is possible in the EU parliament. Udo Voigt, the head of the NPD (who has been featured in Exberliner magazine far too often for my liking), has just been elected to the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. What is left for a comedian to say?

The EU parliament used to have a directive about the required length and curvature of cucumbers. After endless ridicule, it was dropped in 2009. Sonneborn wants to re-introduce this directive but apply it to weapons: “Any gun barrel would need a curvature of at least two centimetres per 10 centimetres in length,” he told the newspaper junge Welt. “I believe that would be less suffering in the world if Germany, as the European champion in exporting weapons, moved ahead on this.” When did you last hear such a sensible proposal from the EU?

And he told the radio Deutschlandfunk his philosophy as a parliamentarian: “Basically I like anything that annoys the EU Commission.” Now that’s a politician I would vote for. If I could vote

Source: http://www.exberliner.com/blogs/the-blog/martin-sonneborn-makes-eu-politics-interesting/

Screw you, Senat! (And good for you, PARTEI!)

26 May

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A typical Sunday evening at Tempelhofer Feld. The sun is setting over the gardens. The guy from the Parkaufsicht comes by to tell us the park will be closing in 30 minutes. We’re still considering whether we’re going to make a scene and demand the park remain open at night (as we usually do), or just pack our stuff and leave peacefully.

Right at 9pm, all across the field people start cheering. Soon, fireworks are screaming into the sky and hundreds of people gather on the runway for an improvised rave.

We won: 738,124 Berliners voted to save the Tempelhofer Feld – well above the 25 percent quorum of eligible voters necessary for the referendum to pass into law. And not only people living near the park voted in favor: Even in far-away Spandau or Marzahn there were two JAs for every NEIN.

This is a massive defeat for the Senat and the corporate media supporting them. Above all, it’s a defeat for the city’s Baumafia (construction mafia) who stood to make billions with luxury condos and office buildings at the old airport. The government spent months spreading lies, claiming they were planning to build social housing on the field.

Berliners might be desperate for cheap housing – but they weren’t ready to believe a government that privatized 200,000 social apartments in the last decade. Why would they now want to build public housing on the most exclusive real estate in the city? As the community activists from Kottbusser Tor said: “Of course we want new housing. But we’re not stupid.”

Around 460,000 Berliners were excluded from the election because they don’t have German citizenship – 160,000 of them live in districts adjoining the park: Tempelhof, Kreuzberg and Neukölln. So the campaign “Wahlrecht für alle!” invited them to a symbolic election on Saturday – 1000 non-Germans came to the Tempelhofer Feld to cast their votes for the European parliament and the referendum. (The results will be published on the internet this week.) Sebastian Mehling from the campaign said the goal was to create “residency-based election rights”, rather than passport-based, so anyone living in the city can participate in democracy.

On Sunday, I went to the local polling station to make my voice heard as well. “I know this isn’t your decision, but I want to file a complaint that I and hundreds of thousands of other Berliners aren’t allowed to vote, even though we live here and pay taxes.” The women working there were very nice but told me they couldn’t help. “Talk to your member of parliament,” they said. “But that’s the problem, I don’t have a member of parliament!”

The European elections, in contrast, were not nearly as exciting. There were some big surprises in other parts of Europe – with an extreme right party winning in France, while a radical left party was in first place in Greece – but Germany only experienced a tremor: Die PARTEI won 0.6 percent of the votes, just enough for one seat in Strasbourg.

Martin Sonneborn, leader of the satirical party, had held a speech in the Olympiastadium which he had copied from Hitler, only replacing “Germany” with “Europe”: “Europe stands before us, Europe is marching in us, and something or other is following behind.” Die PARTEI saved money by covering up other parties’ materials. On CDU posters, the PARTEI wrote: “Merkel is dumb.” While the Pirates said: “Borders are so 1980s”, the PARTEI countered: “Pirates are so 2011.” And Sonneborn was the only party leader to be seen on the street with a bucket of paste hanging up posters himself.

Now Sonneborn will go to Strasbourg, but he plans to resign after just one month. His replacement will quit after one month too. In this way, in the next five years 60 different PARTEI MPs will pass through that one seat. Each one will get €33,000 for their one month of work, plus six months of “transitional pay”. My local PARTEI representative told me he will be up in just over three years. And as Sonneborn said: “We’re not the craziest ones in the European Parliament.”

Source: http://www.exberliner.com/blogs/the-blog/screw-you-senat/

Photo: John Riceburg

Is THE PARTY always right?

2 Oct

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A week and a half ago, more than four in 10 German voters decided to stick with “Mutti”, i.e. Merkel from the CDU, and a further quarter picked her former finance minister, i.e. Steinbrück from the SPD. This squeezed the small parties such as the Greens and the Left, who lost a million voters each compared to the last elections, and the FDP, who dropped a full 10 points and got kicked out of parliament. One small party, however, was able to multiply its result by a factor of eight: Germany’s satirical Die PARTEI.

Riding through Berlin on my bike, the election posters with empty smiles and emptier slogans tend to blend together. “Courage”, “stronger”, “together” – it’s like the Olympic Games of Vacuousness and I just tune out. So I have to ride past a few times before I notice the big one on Kreuzberg’s Oranienplatz: Four attractive young women and what’s their slogan? “Bla bla, blablabla blabla blablabla.” Finally! A party that says things the way I’m reading anyways! And while the SPD and the Greens make vague promises about raising taxes for the extremely wealthy (these are the parties who lowered taxes for the rich the last time they were in government), Die PARTEI has a more immediate solution: “If you vote for us, we will have the 100 richest Germans whacked.”

Die PARTEI was founded by editors of the satirical magazine Titanic in 2004 with the promise to re-divide Germany and re-build the Wall. Other countries have had their share of satirical candidacies before (remember Roseanne Barr?) but it speaks to Germans’ propensity to take everything too seriously – even their satire – that Die PARTEI is still going more than eight years later. And it’s still a legitimate political party, complete with 10,000 members and a dozen provincial branches. They rely on an old-school Stalinist aesthetic including grey suits, tautological speeches (“We are a party, because we are a party!”) and a genuine hymn from East Germany in the 1950s: “The party, the party is always right!”

During the elections in 2005, they tried to sell their state-allotted TV advertising on eBay – eventually they produced three commercials filled with the logo of the discount airline HLX (HLX denies having paid anything for it). However, for the next round in 2009, the federal election commission decided that Die PARTEI was not, in fact, a “Partei”. The justification was dubious and party leader Martin Sonneborn made his disapproval clear to the commission: “The last election official in this country who treated small parties so undemocratically was executed in 1946 by an Allied military court!” This case eventually led to a OSCE complaint about Germany’s election system and a change in the law, but Die PARTEI still wasn’t allowed to participate. They were, however, in the Berlin elections in 2011, where they presented candidates from the hip hop band KIZ and amassed almost one percent – and in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, received double the percentage results of the FDP. PARTEI activists celebrated by sneaking in to the FDP’s election night party and, when their disastrous results came up on the screen, popping champagne bottles and throwing confetti.

In my home of northern Neukölln, Christina Schwarzer and Fritz Felgentreu have been smiling down from posters and trying to win the district for the CDU and the SPD respectively. Their smug grins can just barely hide their thoughts about how they can kick us and our neighbors out of our apartments to convert them into lofts for their rich friends. But Die PARTEI has a different look: Stand-up comic Georg Kammerer is photographed from below with a champagne glass and the ominous slogan: “Power comes from above”. It’s as if he’s running for mayor of Mordor – but at least his pose with a handgun and a pit bull makes him look like a local boy.

In this last election Die PARTEI garnered just short of 80,000 votes – eight times their result from 2005 – and they’ve got their first elected representative in the city council of Lübeck. It was less than their stated goal of “100 percent plus X”, but they’re looking towards the European elections in March 2014 with full confidence. Their humor is occasionally tasteless – like Sonneborn putting on blackface to mock Obama hype – but their lack of any kind of programme means they can promise absolutely anything the citizenry desires. This includes not only unicorns but even an interactive iDemo in front of the Brandenburger Gate with Die PARTEI members holding up iPads as placards that would display whatever message citizens submitted on the web (“Eat more fruit!” for example). In regards to Berlin, Sonneborn also has a clear programme: “We are planning on blowing up the new Berlin Palace directly after reconstruction has finished.” For that promise, they’ve got my vote. If I had a vote.

Source: http://www.exberliner.com/blogs/the-blog/john-riceburg-die-partei/