Vegan Hip-Hop Dadaist? You’re Spoiled for Choice in German Vote

  • More than 40 parties are running in big increase from 2013
  • Parties need to get 5 percent of vote to win Bundestag seats

Merkel's Election Challenges

Want to shrink the German economy? Hold an independence referendum in Bavaria? Give break-dancing a boost? Germans can’t complain about a lack of options in next week’s national election.

With 42 parties on the national ballot, that’s 12 more than four years ago. As elsewhere in Europe, mainstream party loyalties are eroding and alternative groupings are trying to woo both an increasingly skeptical electorate and non-voters. The populist Alternative for Germany, or AfD, is on course to win parliamentary seats on Sept. 24, increasing the number of parties in the Bundestag to six. Yet the chance of smaller parties reaching the 5 percent share of the vote needed to win seats looks vanishingly slim.

The splintering of political support matters because it deprives mainstream parties of votes in a year when cobbling together a coalition government may be more difficult than before. Even with the anti-euro AfD and the tech-friendly Pirates stripped out, 4.2 percent cast a ballot for a party that didn’t make it into the Bundestag in 2013.

This time, residents of Berlin can vote for die bergpartei, or mountain party, which has an aversion to capital letters and paints its own posters. The group says it’s an “eco-anarchist, real-dadaist melting pot” and opposes “the day-in, day-out terror” of consumer society. It questions economic growth, urging “a conscious shrinking and deceleration.”

“We don’t want to get into power,” founding member Benjamin Richter told ARD television. “We want to make suggestions on how society can be restructured.”

Classroom Graffiti

Die Urbane Co-chairwoman Niki Drakos

Photographer: Britta Pedersen/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Photo

Then there’s Die Urbane, literally the urban ones, a Berlin-based “hip-hop party” that says there’s no difference between legal and illegal drugs. With 284 members, according to its website, it also wants an end to the “ideology that subjects people and the environment to a radical market economy.”

For more on Germany’s complex election process, click here.

Cultural diversity is its watchword. Co-chairman Raphael Hillebrand was born in Hong Kong, while co-chairwoman Niki Drakos says she’s “all German and all Greek.” Education policies back promoting graffiti -- it’s “high time to bring urban art into the classroom” -- and breakdance.

V for Change

Voters who feel the Green Party has gone mainstream might turn to the Party for Change, Vegetarians and Vegans, which wants to phase out livestock farming and move to organic, vegan agriculture. The German word for change also starts with a V, so that’s V Cubed for short. The party is targeting Hugo Boss AG with a petition calling on jeans makers to stop using leather labels.

Its Bavaria-based chairman, Roland Wegner, has another claim to fame: He’s been a world champion in running backward. Also on the party’s slate is former movie actress Barbara Ruetting, at 89 the oldest Bundestag candidate of any party, according to V Cubed.

For those in Bavaria who’d prefer not to be contesting the Bundestag election at all, there’s the pro-independence Bavaria Party, whose fortunes have waned since it was part of a West German government in the 1950s.

It still offers people in the state of BMW and Siemens a radical option: a referendum on independence from Germany “at the appropriate time.” Bavaria’s ruling Christian Social Union party, which is allied with Chancellor Angela Merkel, allows other Germans to freeload off the more than 30 billion euros ($36 billion) that the state of lederhosen and dirndls transfers to the rest of country every year, party head Florian Weber told ARD last month.

“The CSU takes off its traditional costumes when it gets to Berlin and puts on pinstripe suits,” Weber said.

‘Dominate Europe’

Not everyone hankers for the glory days of Bavaria’s Mad King Ludwig: Marx and Lenin continue to inspire some on the German left. The Socialist Equality Party (renamed this year from the Party of Social Equality) with 300 members, says capitalism means war and parties from the AfD to the anti-capitalist, anti-NATO Left -- the biggest opposition party in parliament -- plan to boost military spending after the election.

“In their hunt for profit, the German elites want to dominate Europe again and transform it into a military great power,” deputy chairman Christoph Vandreier says in a clip on the party website.

Alternatively, there’s the Marxist-Leninist Party of Germany, which wants to abolish overtime and cut the workweek to 30 hours without reducing pay, measures it says would create 8 million jobs.

If it’s all too serious, there’s always The Party, an offshoot of the satirical magazine Titanic, which actually captured a seat in the European Parliament three years ago.

Sample humor from its program: Halt animal testing -- test lip gloss and organic jam on top athletes; they’re used to all sorts of substances.

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