German Comedy on a European Scale - Die Partei

Satirical Political Party Protests Against Tourists
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In 2010, something peculiar happened in Iceland. Now, you may wonder why we start an article about German comedy with Iceland, but we’ll get to that in a bit. So, in June of 2010, the Icelandic comedian and writer Jón Gnarr surprisingly became the mayor of the country’s capital, Reykjavik. The significance of his election becomes clearer once you point out, that two-thirds of Iceland’s population are living in Reykjavik. Interestingly enough, Gnarr was quite successful in his four years as mayor. He might be the most successful example for a comedian in European politics, but he sure is not the only one. Especially the financial crisis of 2008 seems to have sparked a stronger public reaction to satirical approaches in politics. 

In Italy, Beppe Grillo’s “Movimento 5 Stelle (Five Star Movement)“ rattled the political cage on an international scale. In some regional elections in 2010, the comedian’s party managed to collect up to twenty percent of the votes – for a while it became the second most popular party in Italy.

Though much less successful, there is a similar phenomenon in Germany. It is called “Die Partei (The Party)” and it relentlessly parodies all other parties and politicians. And since 2014, it does so on a European scale.

Relentless Satire vs. Practical Politics

Maybe ahead of its time, “Die Partei” was founded by Martin Sonneborn and others in 2004. Back then, Sonneborn was editor-in-chief of Germany’s most important satire magazine, the “Titanic”. It wasn’t the first intervention of magazine staff in elections or other political processes. Since 2004, the party participated in numerous regional, state and federal elections. It never had any noteworthy success, but always made quite a ruckus with parodies of “normal” politicians and parties. In some cities, “Die Partei” recruited well-known comedians for its campaigns, which then became very media-effective. Especially in the social media, the party manages to get attention by using humorous slogans such as “Overcome Content!”.    

Despite aiming to overcome content (a clear heckle of the lack of content on election campaign posters), the party has a program of sorts. It contains demands such as putting Chancellor Angela Merkel back into Eastern Germany and centers around building another wall between Eastern and Western Germany, as well as other walls, e.g. one around Germany. Other parts of the party program include the demand for war against the country of Liechtenstein. With this program “Die Partei” managed to gain 0,2 percent of the votes in the 2013 federal election. But to be fair, the satirical party does not only make fun of politics. Moreover with its sharp remarks, it effectively criticizes political systems and traditions that often hinder true progress.

The Party for Europe

In the 2014 election for the European Parliament, “Die Partei” achieved a surprising victory. It actually managed to win one seat in Brussels, running with the slogan “Yes to Europe, No to Europe”. This meant that party boss Martin Sonneborn had to take office in the European Parliament. He now resides in Brussels among the independent parties, not belonging to one of the larger fractions, which means that he is now surrounded by other fringe groups, such as the right-wing association of French politician Marine Le Pen. Furthermore, Sonneborn receives payment for his work in the parliament as well as a staff and access to the parliament’s carpool. Before the 2014 election, he had declared that he would try to resign after a month, leaving his post for a “Die Partei” successor, who would do the same thing, so as many of the party’s members as possible could enjoy the benefits of holding a seat in the EU-Parliament. However, it turned out that the rules of the parliament did not allow this procedure and thus Martin Sonneborn has to remain in Brussels for the complete period of his legislature.

He now spends his time in parliament, mostly being bored as he stated himself. Then again he is not attending the sessions very often, which is another way to annoy the long-established European politicians. From time to time, Sonneborn actively gets involved in the political business, though. After the conservative fraction of the EU-Parliament revealed plans to expel the two delegates of the German right-wing party AFD, he recently issued a press release, proclaiming that he would not accept the two politicians ruining the reputation of the assembly of fringe groups that he is part of.