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John Riceburg: Die PARTEI – maybe next time

Whether you'd vote for them or not, we've already begun missing Die PARTEI's hilarious campaign. To cap off his experience of the election season, John went to the satirical party's party.

Image for John Riceburg: Die PARTEI – maybe next time
Photo by John Riceburg

Watching the Berlin election results on Sunday was boring. I mean, it was actually a bit exciting to see just how boring election results could be. To escape the tedium, I went to the one place in the city I could expect some joie de vivre.

At the Prenzlauer Berg’s WBB Willner Brauerei biergarten, I joined about100 people uniformly decked out in grey suit jackets, light blue shirts and red ties. This could only be Die PARTEI, the brash comedians that put Martin Sonneborn into the EU parliament in 2014. (Since then, he’s provided me with literally the only interesting news I’ve ever heard from the pseudo-chamber in Strasbourg.)

By Sunday night, the joke had reached new levels. This is Berlin, after all. Local PARTEI functionaries had been hoping for one percent in order to qualify for state financing for their party – so they could fulfil the promise of free beer for their supportors.

There was a small TV set up in the biergarten, but no one was watching. Everyone was crammed into a small and smokey room, glued to their phones, refreshing the website of the Landeswahlleiterin to get the latest results. And for a while, those results looked positive.

Die PARTEI is like an army with a lot of generals and few soldiers: Every member wants to be the star comedian. Because who wants to sit around listening to other comedians? So the celebrations throughout the night involved reciprocal cheering for each other. Each candidate had their own personal stickers with their own funny slogans (like the immensely popular “Hier könnte ein Nazi hängen“). But now: Would the jokers finally have a captive audience in the form of other parliamentarians?

Faced with their party’s rising numbers, candidates looked happy, but also confused – kind of the way I’d picture Donald Trump after an election victory. “What would I do in the BVV?” one candidate wondered out loud. It only took a minute to get him excited about the idea. He could go to meetings in a bathrobe with beer in hand – he’d at least try it out for six months before resigning. “And when I’m feeling angry at the world, instead of posting something on Facebook, I can say it in parliament.”

I even got to stand close to Maxim from Berlin’s wildy popular, sort-of-anti-capitalist but also awfully sexist rap group KIZ (I believe that sexism is sexism, like this blogger, whether it’s satirical or not), who had run as Die PARTEI’s top candidate. (Of course, I was way too cool to say “hi”.) But I’m more convinced than ever: Something is rotten in German’s parliamentary system if a satirical party is the only thing that can keep people from going to sleep. The PARTY can only go up and up, ever closer to political power.

It wasn’t until the next day that I found out he didn’t get a seat after all. Die PARTEI got a grand total of two seats, both in the BVV of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg (where else?). But at least they were ahead of the Pirates – who had inadvertently turned into a satirical party – and the Animal Protection Party. That’s 31,908 people saying they’d rather vote for a satirist than any of the other candidates available.