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German Fringe Parties Vie for Votes

September 24, 1998

BERLIN (AP) _ One second, punks dance in the streets and guzzle beer. The next, they sit grinning in German luxury cars as men in business suits clean their windshields.

Reality? Nope. Just a TV ad from the Anarchist Slamdancing Party of Germany, one of the many small, mostly unknown groups campaigning for the vote in the Sept. 27 national elections.

More fringe parties than ever before _ 24, up from 14 four years ago _ are competing this year, alongside the eight bigger ones that have seats in national or state parliaments.

Car freaks, animal lovers, feminists, radical environmentalists, communists, evangelical Christians, even vote boycotters, have dedicated political parties in Germany.

One right-wing party _ Citizens Movement Solidarity _ is headed in Germany by Helga Zep-LaRouche, the wife of U.S. right-wing extremist Lyndon LaRouche.

None of these mini-parties have a prayer of getting into parliament. Some of them aren’t even on any of the 16 state ballots because they failed to gather the 2,000 or so signatures needed to qualify.

So why bother?

Money is one reason the number of small parties is increasing.

German law requires state funding for any party that wins at least 0.5 percent of regional voting. That’s well below the 5 percent of the vote required to gain seats in parliament, so even if these small parties lose the election, they could get some cash.

Some parties are within the realm of the plausible, like the Gray Panthers, a group of disgruntled pensioners, or the ``Pro Deutsche mark″ party that hates the idea of losing the national tender to the European common currency or euro.

Then there’s the fringe of the fringe.

While some parties certainly believe in their mission statements, others _ such as the Anarchist Slamdancing Party _ are running just to shake things up a bit.

``We are for the total re-stupidification of humanity and for the balkanization of Germany,″ party leader Karl Nagel said.

The Hamburg-based party, which claims to represent ``social parasites,″ campaigns on slogans such as ``Free beer for all.″ The anarchists also envision ``zones″ for workaholics, fueled by legalized ``cocaine, speed, and Ecstasy.″

And if they manage to leap the crucial 0.5 percent hurdle, they’re going to throw a big party with the proceeds.

In keeping with their campaign platform, the beer will be free.

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