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  • John Riceburg: Screw you, Senat! (And good for you, PARTEI!)


John Riceburg: Screw you, Senat! (And good for you, PARTEI!)

We won: 738,124 Berliners voted to save the Tempelhofer Feld. Even though foreigners were excluded. And Die PARTEI won – the satirical party got just enough votes for a seat in the European parliament.

The field right before the results were known.
John Riceburg

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.”