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Satire and reality blur in parody party's strife

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Satire and reality blur in parody party's strife
Martin Sonneborn. Photo: DPA
17:12 CEST+02:00
After winning a seat in the European Parliament last year on a commitment to 'milking Brussels,' satirical party Die Partei broke new ground. Now a 'Nazi Putsch' threatens to split the party asunder.

What happens when an argument about greed and self-interest breaks out in a joke party set up to mock those very traits in established political parties?

A media story of absurd and surreal proportions breaks out in which the line between satire and reality becomes ever harder to distinguish.

Milking Brussels

Party leader Martin Sonneborn told voters he wanted to go to Brussels to live the good life, and after his election in June 2014 he seems to have stayed true to his word.

In October he told The Local it was only a matter of time before he started using his tax payer-funded limo to do his shopping.

But party colleagues are looking enviously and angrily at that enticing piece of Belgian gateaux.

Leo Fischer, a member of Die Partei's federal executive board, has announced he intends to stand against Sonneborn at the party convention in October.

Speaking to TAZ on Tuesday, he described his qualifications as "the same as [those of] the current leader: Seven years' experience at Titanic [a satirical magazine] and an unlimited thirst for power".

Fischer has set up a group within the party called Chance 5,000, offering party members who support his candidacy "up to €5,000" in immediate cash in return.

This might all sound like the party trying to win a few headlines for itself in the summer 'silly season'. But it seems there is serious discontent among the rank and file, which has grown to over 17,000 members in party factions across the country.

The dispute centres on an agreement Sonneborn had with the party's executive body to rotate representation in Brussels every four weeks. The party leader has backed down from this commitment citing legal reasons. Fischer also accuses him of offering plum party positions to his Berlin friends and of hoarding money that should be distributed across the country.

To make the conflict all the more surreal, it mirrors the recent split in the Alternative for Germany party (AfD), the type of populist group Die Partei is supposed to mock, which led to leader Bern Lucke losing power earlier in July.

Speaking to the Frankfurter Rundschau, Fischer noted that "inner party disputes are all the rage in small parties at the moment".

'Night of the Long Knives'

Meanwhile Sonneborn's response has been no less surreal than the crtique against him.

In an interview with Spiegel, he raved that "it's like the Night of the Long Knives," referring to the purge of brown shirt chiefs in the Nazi party in 1934.

As for accusations that he did not listen to the party's rank and file he rebutted "of course I don't. We are a party which revolves around its leader. I have no truck with inner party democracy.“

Fischer he said belonged to a younger generation "whose blood pressure is too high. They try and push themselves forward, with varying success."

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