originally published June 9, 2012
So you want to be active in politics, but you just can’t bring yourself to care very much. It’s okay, there are ways around this. The most entertaining solution would be to find a hook, and start up a frivolous political party.
The world has had its share of frivolous parties, and Wikipedia has been kind enough to assemble a few for our perusal.
Voting for a frivolous political party can mean one of two things. Either you’re dissatisfied with the mainstream parties and you want to cast a decisive ‘none of the above’ vote to register your disdain, or else you don’t care who runs your city/province/state/country/galactic district, and you think it’d funny to vote for a political party with the word ‘Beer’ in its name.
Most of these frivolous parties exist for the former; no one truly expects that England’s Citizens for Undead Rights and Equality are going to devote legislative time to discussing whether or not zombies should be allowed to drive. They snagged 317 votes in the UK general election of 2010 – that’s 317 votes by people who didn’t want to give the Labour Party or the Tories their support.
The Hungarian Two-Tailed Dog Party ran for the mayoral race in Budapest in 2010, with a firm platform of delivering eternal life, world peace, a one-day work week, two sunsets every day (in varying colors), smaller gravitation, free beer and low taxes. They didn’t win, and Hungary’s tourism revenue has no doubt suffered for it.
I wonder though, what would have happened if they had? If one of these joke parties somehow finds themselves in an election where, for example, the party leaders of the mainstream parties are all embroiled in some sort of mollusk-sex or diaper-eating scandal, or for whatever reason have become wildly unpopular, could the unthinkable occur?
What if István Nagy (all candidates for the Hungarian Two-Tailed Dog Party were named István Nagy – I’m not making that up) had somehow become the mayor of Budapest? It would have been bedlam and chaos of course, but the real crime would have been the death of the joke. Frivolous political parties like these aim to be a poignant slap at the mainstream parties: “You may have won, but enough people are dissatisfied with you that 4% of the voting public actually voted for a joke candidate instead of you.” The gag works best if the results are high enough to draw a headline or two, but below the threshold of electability.
4% is an unworldly estimate of course. Most frivolous parties are happy to snag more than 0.5% of the vote.
Canada’s great foray into party jokery came in the form of the Rhinoceros Party, formed in 1963 but not really a contender for the federal electorate until the 1970s. Some of their ideas are interesting enough to warrant a mention:
- Banning winter (right here they’ve earned my vote)
- Declaring war on Belgium because Tintin – the fictional character who originated in Belgium – once killed a rhino in a cartoon. They offered to call off the war if Belgium sent a case of mussels and Belgian beer to their party headquarters. The Belgian embassy in Ottawa actually did this.
- Flattening the Rocky Mountains to allow Albertans to view the Pacific Ocean sunset.
- Promoting higher education by building taller schools.
- Building a bridge that spans the entire country.
Despite evidence to the contrary (we have a beaver on the back of our nickel), the government of Canada doesn’t have a great sense of humor. They instituted a new law that required the Rhino Party to run candidates in at least 50 ridings (with a $1000 per candidate fee) in order to be on the ballot for the 1993 election. They opted to abstain.
Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley did not accept the abstention, and formally ordered the Rhino Party to be removed from the Registry of Canadian Political Parties, wiping them from existence and removing any hope I had of supporting their madness, since ’93 was the first federal election in which I was eligible to vote.
(Kingsley, pictured here demonstrating the correct way to cradle the balls of one’s superior whilst receiving orders to abolish fun in one’s nation)
Rhino Party member Brian Salmi filed a suit against the federal government, demanding $50 million in compensation for the manipulative rules that led to the disbandment of the party. Salmi had legally changed his name to Sa Tan, so the lawsuit was officially filed as “Satan vs. Her Majesty The Queen.”
Beer is always a good platform for electoral politics, and a surprising number of Beer Parties have found their way onto ballots around the world. Norway had a Beer Unity Party, but nothing really came of it. Your best bet in establishing a beer-themed political party is to wait for an empire to collapse, and see if your people’s faith in brew can stitch together the remains.
The Ukrainian Beer Lovers Party was born in November 1991, around the time that Ukraine was floating free from Soviet domination. If one is to be adrift, they reasoned, why not be adrift upon beer?
Their biggest problem was a lack of ‘beer’ in their policies. They supported a new economy, cultural education and an improvement in the quality standard for food. I guess that would include beer as well, but where’s the fun in that?
Belarus’ Beer Lovers Party, which came along in 1993, also supported state independence, freedom of economic relations and the inviolability of private property. But first and foremost on their list was the cleanliness and quality of their national beer. Also, their logo was a drunken hedgehog:
Russia’s Beer Lovers Party came next, boasting over 1700 members upon its registration as an official party. They built up momentum and had enlisted more than 50,000 members in time for the 1995 election – of course they had to clean up their platform to include more than just “Hooray for beer,” shading in the gaps with an environmentalist / humanist hue. They only grabbed 0.62% of the vote however, and disbanded.
Lastly we turn to Poland. The Polish know how to drink, and they are well-known for quality beers, unlike those crazy vodka-heavy former-Soviets. The Polish Beer-Lovers’ Party started in 1990, at the pre-dawn of the post-Soviet era. By the time the former USSR satellite nations had cast their Beer Lovers vote, the future had become the present, and proper governance for a new state was a priority. But Poland beat the curve, launching their quirky feet into the ring in time for the 1991 parliamentary elections, at a time when Poles wanted anything but the leadership that had brought them to national crisis.
And it worked.
They grabbed nearly 3% of the vote, and sixteen seats in the Sejm, the lower house of Polish Parliament. Once elected, the party members soon split and evolved into more commonplace mainstream ideologies, leaving the Beer-Lovers’ Party as a delicious footnote in their country’s history.
But for a while, the comedians had won. It was a small victory – both for comedy and for beer – but a triumph for the goofiness of the human spirit.