Germany's 'Joke' Party Wants Seat at EU Table

The satirical political party Die PARTEI runs for re-election to the European Union parliament.

It’s just after noon on a bright weekday in Berlin and Martin Sonneborn is a little hungover. “We’ve just held big campaign events here in Berlin,” he says between sips of orange juice and cappuccino.

Sonneborn, a German member of the European Parliament who is hoping to be elected for a second term, is not exactly your typical candidate. He doesn’t so much want to reform the European Union, or join in the high-minded debates about bloc’s future, as much as he wants to point out the absurdities of the political system that underpins it.

Sonneborn, with his blue eyes and receding hairline, is the face of Die PARTEI, a satirical political party originally created to lampoon German politics that counts some 35,000 members in chapters across the country. He became its first MEP in 2014 almost by mistake — the result of a joke campaign.

Unaffiliated with any of the political coalitions that drive policymaking in the European Parliament, Sonneborn’s main activity as an elected member has been to make joke-filled speeches in front of a nearly empty plenary and post them on YouTube, where they have received millions of views. He is often photographed wearing the cheap gray suit and red tie that have become the party’s official uniform, his hands clasped above his head in triumph.

From outside, Sonneborn’s campaign to keep his seat in the European election on May 26 — where his party is slated to win 2 percent of the vote in Germany — could very well be mistaken for the real thing. ...