Wednesday

1st Feb 2023

Interview

Satire party pokes fun at German politics

  • Martin Sonneborn is co-publisher of the satire magazine Titanic (Photo: Die Partei)

Die Partei (The Party) is no ordinary political faction.

Their events mostly poke fun at the other parties and at right-wing prejudice in German society.

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But despite this, the Federal Election Committee earlier this summer registered it as one of the 38 parties eligible to run in the 22 September elections.

Martin Sonneborn, the 48-year-old co-publisher of the satirical magazine Titanic and the head of Die Partei, told EUobserver the idea to launch the group dates back to 2004 "because there was no party we could vote for [in Germany's 2005 elections]."

"We chose a brand - The Party - that is known both in the east and the west. It is a well-known brand and signalises a one-party-system. We want to make other parties superfluous," he said.

He noted that his campaign slogan - "overcoming substance"- is a form of honesty, which highlights the poverty of ideas among the main political groups.

"We are trying to lead a campaign with no substance at all. We are making American-style, populist, goal-oriented politics. And for that you don't need substance anymore. On the contrary, substance is a nuisance. One can change positions overnight like the FDP [the Liberal party, currently in coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel], but that implies some costs. Imagine you print banners or posters and have to withdraw them within 24 hours," he added.

Asked if his party is for or against the euro, Sonneborn said: "This doesn't matter at all to us. We want to get to power by populist means and then we'll have a vote. If the Germans want the euro, we'll keep it, if they want to go back to the Deutsche Mark, we'll do that."

He added that Die Partei will only endorse referendum results which it likes and will put in place a "steered democracy," because bottom-up democracy is an "absurd invention."

Expanding on its previous idea of rebuilding the wall that once separated East and West Berlin, Die Partei is now campaigning for a wall to be built around Germany itself.

"We want to build a wall around Germany, against globalisation and uncontrollable financial flows. The wall is also an export product, Switzerland could also use one. Greece, for the money they spent on German panzers or submarines, they could have built quite a respectable wall worth seeing," Sonneborn said.

He explained that back in 2004, "when no party really stood out with one topic, because you couldn't tell who was for or against nuclear energy or compulsory military service … we took a stand and demanded the reconstruction of the wall."

He underlined that he does not really want to build any walls, but said it is "a taboo and a fun thing to ask for."

"The officials were all talking about how the country has grown together, that we will have blooming landscapes in the East as well. It was all nonsense. So we saw this gap in the market," he said.

After recently staging a march around the popular Brandenburger Gate in Berlin calling for tourists to go away, Sonneborn noted that this was also "purely populist," because Berliners are annoyed with "cheap airline tourists" from Scandinavia.

"We are also against German tourists. We have posters saying we don't want any Americans, any Spaniards, any Swedes or Norwegians. And no people from Ulm," he added.

He said he chose Ulm, a southern German town, "because it's a short name and fits better on posters."

As for comedy in German politics in general, the Sonneborn says it is not something which German citizens either expect or consider important.

"There are people like Gregor Gysi [a left-wing politician] who are funny and capable of reacting with irony or self-irony, but that is not part of the profile of an average politician. It is probably also seen as not serious. For a lot of parties this is a no-go area," he explained.

He noted that in times of crisis alternative ideas get a bigger audience, however, citing Jon Gnarr, who was elected as mayor of Reykjavik after promising free sauna towels, and Beppe Grillo, an Italian satirist whose Five Star Movement has become a major force in the Italian parliament.

Top candidate for EU elections

Sonneborn is also Die Partei's top candidate for EU elections in May 2014.

"We are very serious about it. We set up a list for the EU elections with over 60 people, we adopted it at our party congress in Bremen. I am number one on the list. We will be able to mobilise many of our voters, unlike other parties, and because there is no five-percent threshold, I think there is a big chance to send someone to Brussels," he said.

He noted that Die Partei is in contact with similar groups in Switzerland, Austria and Spain to create "a Europe-wide expansion" of its message.

But first they want to take power in Germany.

With pollsters usually not even mentioning Die Partei when they ask voters what their preferred faction is, there seems a long way to go.

But Sonneborn has a plan b.

"We plan a visit to Benin. Their official religion is voodoo. So we thought, if we don't win these elections, Angela Merkel will be toppled only in a very unusual way. We will talk to the Benin President about his religion and the possibility of making people disappear or making them suffer," Sonneborn said.

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