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GERMAN ELECTION 2013

POLITICS

Punks and pirates: the oddest political parties

The German election campaign has been accused of being dull and out-of-touch. To rectify that The Local has travelled a step or two beyond the mainstream.

Punks and pirates: the oddest political parties
Photo: DPA

On the very edges of the country’s political spectrum we have found some political alternatives off-the-beaten-track. From the unorthodox to the bizarre and the dangerous, here are a few of Germany’s strangest parties.

APPD – The Anarchist Pogo Party of Germany

The APPD was formed in Hannover in 1981 by a group of punks – the name comes from the punk dance the pogo – with a manifesto of radical changes for Germany.

The party campaigns for the right to unemployment with full salary, the breaking up of Germany into small states, and the total transformation of society aimed at rescuing people from “disease-causing civilizing pressures”.

Among the pogo-anarchists’ most controversial ideas is their plan for a secure “violence-allowed park” in which “criminals, Nazis, rapists and psychopaths” would be allowed free reign.

Their materials often feature a picture of a gorilla or ape, referring to their key policy of the “stultification” of mankind.

The APPD argues people should revert to the human “primal state”, eschewing such modern trappings as social media, compulsory education and policing.

The APPD also ape far-right parties’ talk of restoring Germany’s “true” borders by advocating a return to how Germany’s borders stood in 1237- at the height of the Holy Roman Empire.

Die PARTEI – Party for Work, Rule of Law, Protection of Animals, Advancement of Elites and Grassroots democratic initiative

Die PARTEI was formed in 2004, the brainchild of Martin Sonneborn and his colleagues at the German satirical magazine Titanic. The party’s name is a play on words, since the German for “Party” is Partei, and their manifesto is just as tongue-in-cheek.

Key policies include building a wall around Germany to protect against globalization, restricting managers’ wages to a mere 25,000 times that of their employees, banning all pub crawls, and commissioning scientists to cross the German tax system with string theory to make it more complicated.

They also plan a Faulenquote (Quota for lazy people) in government, a pun referencing the ongoing discussion about a possible Frauenquote (Quota for women).

The PARTEI attracted attention recently with a public protest against allowing tourists into the country – satirizing the views of far-right groups on immigration and terrorism.

Die Piraten- The Pirate Party

They have become well-established in Berlin, but to outsiders the idea of a Pirate Party remains bizarre. Bernd Schlömer’s party is the German department of an international political movement centred on a campaign for freedom of the internet.

Die Piraten have been called a single issue party, since their core values are all built around the idea of a growing “digital society” and policies securing freedom of information, anonymity and protection of personal data on the internet.

This focus has also become a point of satire, with opponents homing in on the Pirates’ call to legalize free software downloads and file sharing, branding them computer nerds.

More recently, though, they have developed a wider set of liberal-progressive social policies such as campaigning for separation of church and state and a rethink of Germany’s drug laws.

They have also attracted attention for their open method of developing policies. Users on their online discussion platform, Liquid Feedback, can submit ideas, and if they get support from ten per cent or more of the site’s users, the party members will vote on adopting it as policy.

While still a very minor party in electoral terms, the Pirates have gained some support and momentum in recent months, however many of their more wide-ranging policies have been criticized as populist, vague and unrealistic – for example their call for free public transport.

NEIN! – The “NO” Party

The idea of Jens Martinek’s ‘NO’ Party is essentially what it says on the tin. They reject the current system and mainstream parties. Their only policy is giving voters the right to vote negatively (in addition to normal voting or spoiling their ballot).

They believe this will allow voters to send a stronger message to politicians, not just abstaining but actively voting against all candidates. It’s not clear, however, how they plan to implement this option in the German electoral system.

As a small, single-issue group, the ‘NO’ Party is a long way from gaining any electoral success. But cashing in on the current anti-political sentiment could ironically win them votes from Germans who feel the mainstream parties have betrayed them and make decisions over their heads.

Bergpartei/Überpartei – Mountain Party

Collectively known simply as “B”, and formed by Hauke Stiewe, they are perhaps the most unorthodox party on The Local’s List.

This group formed from the union of two regional parties based in Berlin, and has roots in a variety of political traditions and groups, in particular Berlin’s squatter community.

“B” identifies itself as somewhere between eco-anarchism and Dada – the surreal artistic and social movement from the beginning of the 19th century, which valued absolute individuality and refused to follow accepted norms or ideals.

Their campaigns centre mainly on ecological policies, like promoting cycling, but they also advocate the total deconstruction of modern civilization, welcome economic bankruptcy (because “poverty brings us together”) and plan to convert the defence ministry into the “ministry of sharing”.

Stiewe’s party is best known, however, for a regular protest it organizes in Berlin – which takes the form of a giant vegetable fight.

The Local will be running a live blog on Sunday from 5pm (German time) covering all the latest election developments and bringing you the results as they come in. Check our homepage from Sunday afternoon to follow it.

READ MORE: Reasons why the election matters to non-Germans

Alex Evans

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POLITICS

Civil servants ‘getting burnout’ over energy crisis, says German minister

Public sector workers trying to tackle Germany's ongoing energy crisis are suffering from illness and burnout, Economics Minister Robert Habeck has said.

Civil servants 'getting burnout' over energy crisis, says German minister

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has unleashed economic turmoil in Europe, placing Germany’s new coalition government under pressure to firefight multiple crises.

Perhaps the largest of these is the energy crisis, which has prompted fears of gas shortages in the winter months and seen prices for fossil fuels soar for both households and businesses.

According to Economics and Climate Minister Robert Habeck, the staff at his ministry – who are charged with tackling the energy crisis – are struggling to cope with the extraordinary pressure that they have been under in recent months. 

“People, at some point they have to sleep and eat too,” the Green politician said at a congress of the Federation of German Industries (BDI) in Berlin. “It’s not bullshit I’m talking now: people get sick. They have burnout, they get tinnitus. They can’t take it anymore.”

READ ALSO:

In the last nine months alone, the Economics Ministry has produced 20 laws and 28 ordinances, Habeck revealed. He said this was likely more than the ministry produced over the entirety of the previous four-year legislature. 

Highlighting the strain that his staff were under, Habeck explained that it was always the same people in charge in drafting new laws in the battle to secure the energy supply.

To say that the Tourism Ministry could help restructure the electricity market would be like “telling the artist who made the sculptures that he can be the president of the Federation of German Industries,” the Green politician added. 

Batting off criticism that the ministry had occasionally been slow to act, Habeck said: “Of course you could say, ‘why didn’t you do the regulation a week earlier’. But it’s not because people are sleeping, it’s because there is a limit to their physical capacity.”

Gas levy criticism 

Germany has had to cope with an ever intensifying energy emergency over the past few months, culminating in Russia reducing supplies and then turning off gas deliveries via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline entirely in September. 

Most recently, the government took steps to nationalise its largest gas supplier – Uniper – in a move to prevent the collapse of the country’s energy infrastructure. Uniper has suffered losses of billions of euros this year due to the costs involved in replacing cheap Russian gas supplies at short notice. 

Habeck, who has appeared increasingly world-weary and exhausted in recent months, has faced sharp criticism for a number of decisions made during the crisis. 

Most controversially, his decision to implement a gas levy to bail out major energy companies has been met with consternation from both the opposition and the Greens’ coalition partners, the Social Democrats (SPD). 

On Friday, SPD leader Lars Klingbeil reiterated concerns about the fairness of the gas levy at a time when many are struggling to pay their energy bills.

SPD leader Lars Klingbeil

SPD leader Lars Klingbeil speaks to the press during the ARD Summer Interview in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

In a situation where the government is facing multiple decisions in a short space of time, ministers also require the strength to “reconsider and correct their path”, Klingbeil told RND.

“(The gas levy) is about supporting the gas supply infrastructure,” he added. “However, this must be done fairly.”

In spite of the nationalisation of Uniper, Habeck has confirmed that the gas levy – which adds 2.4 cents per kilowatt hour of energy onto gas bills – will still be introduced on October 1st.

However, on Thursday he announced that there would be changes to Energy Security Act to ensure that only companies who needed the bailout would benefit from the levy.

According to the ministry, the changes are set to be passed by the cabinet on September 28th.

READ ALSO: Germany to push ahead with gas levy plans

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