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Fringe parties abound but have little chance in German election

September 21, 2009

Strangers to electoral office and with little experience in government, 23 parties outside the political mainstream are aiming to gain ground in Germany’s federal election this month, and their success or failure may give a taste of what’s to come in a country whose two main parties are losing appeal. Some analysts say that without reform, the number and importance of smaller parties will rise and make the country’s coalition system of government unmanageable – a harrowing reminder of the chaos of the Weimar years that made Hitler’s rise possible. At the moment the small parties are polling at around 5 percent, compared to the last election when they won 4 percent. But none alone is even close to clearing the 5 percent hurdle to access parliament.

Most of the micro-parties are based on single issues, some focusing on things like pensioners rights or animal protection. A smattering of religious parties are calling for stronger Christian values, and far-left groups urge different visions of proletarian revolution and state economic control. The computer-geek founded Pirate Party, which is also the fastest growing party in Germany, wants to legalise free downloads.

While the strongest of the obscure – the far-right German People’s Union (DVU) and the German National Party (NPD) already have a handful of representatives in state-level government, the others do not. None of them of course stand a chance against bigger rivals like the centre-right CDU/CSU, the free-marketeering FDP, the centre left SPD, or even the environmental Greens or far-left Left Party. But some are attracting younger voters, including those born after the fall of the Berlin Wall who increasingly reject the mainstream parties.

For a look at 23 German political parties (including the main ones), check out the Vote-O-Mat (aka “Wahl-O-Mat” in German). Answer a series of questions (in English) and a tool will produce a recommended voting list based on your responses.

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