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Joke party

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Joke party

A frivolous party or a joke party is a political party which has been created for the purposes of entertainment or political satire. Such a party may or may not have a serious point behind its activities. Examples of joke parties include the Official Monster Raving Loony Party in the United Kingdom, the McGillicuddy Serious Party and Bill and Ben Party in New Zealand, the Rhinoceros Party and its successor, and the Lemon Party, all in Canada, the Donald Duck Party in Sweden, the Die PARTEI party in Germany, the Beer Lovers Party in several eastern European countries, the Independent Royalist Party of Estonia, the NEE Party in Belgium,[1] the Surprise Party of the United States and Besti flokkurinn in Iceland.

Policies and objectives

Often joke parties promote unusual, even absurd policies. For example, the Monster Raving Loony Party proposes that the white cliffs of Dover should be painted blue for camouflage purposes, and that the number 13 should be abolished due to "its longstanding unpopularity". The McGillicuddy Serious Party sometimes invited readers of its manifesto to write in their own policy ideas, on the basis that the party, being politicians, wouldn't carry them out anyway.

The objectives of joke parties, however, can be somewhat more complex than their policies would indicate. Many parties, such as the Monster Raving Loonies, the McGillicuddies and Bill and Ben, were formed primarily for entertainment purposes, with people participating simply because they find it fun.

Other parties, however, have more serious goals, perhaps aiming to counteract a "depressing" or "angry" mood in politics. The Swedish Ezenhemmer Plastic Bags and Child Rearing Utensils Party describes itself in this light, saying that if people were "a little bit more cheerful and playful instead of engaging ourselves in disputes with our opponents", the world would be a better place.[2]

Still other parties may use humour (particularly satire) to criticise and attack the political establishment — during the later days of the McGillicuddy Serious Party, for example, a number of anarchists joined the party, using it to criticise the political system.

Varying opinions as to the purpose of a joke party can sometimes lead to internal conflicts, as it did in the McGillicuddy Serious Party. The Monster Raving Loony Party has split on at least two occasions due to internal disputes.

Support

The most obvious reason for a person to support a joke party is simply that they enjoy the humour. There are, however, other arguments advanced in favour of joke parties. Some supporters, for example, say that joke parties perform an important public service, ensuring that people do not take politicians too seriously. Joke parties also receive votes from people who are disillusioned by the political process, or who feel that none of the "serious" parties are worth voting for. This is sometimes directly encouraged — in New Zealand, McGillicuddy Serious sometimes advertised itself as an entertaining way to waste one's vote. Some voters feel that voting for a joke party is a useful form of protest vote. Tomma Talande Stolar (Empty Vocal Seats) in Sweden was formed to the stated objective of getting a seat in the parliament and leaving it empty.

For the most part, joke parties do not win seats, although there have been a number of notable exceptions. The defunct Polish Beer-Lovers' Party was probably the most successful joke party, having won sixteen seats in the Sejm (3.5% of the total) in the 1991 elections. In Iceland, joke party Besti flokkurinn (The Best Party) founded by comedian Jón Gnarr won local council elections in the Icelandic capital of Reykjavík, winning 34.7% of the votes, compared to the Independence Party's 33.6%, and won six seats on the council.[3]

Other parties, such as the Monster Raving Loony Party, have won seats on local councils.[4][5][6] Even if a joke party does not win, however, it may still poll better than other unsuccessful "serious" parties. In the UK, the 1990 by-election in Bootle derailed David Owen's new Social Democratic Party after their candidate received less votes than the Monster Raving Loony Party.

Controversy

Joke parties sometimes attract considerable criticism from other parties. Opponents say that frivolous parties make a mockery of an important public process, and undermine the prestige of the democratic system. Proponents point out (implicitly by their very existence) that the electoral system is already a joke, and that any damage to the "democratic system" has already been inflicted by the so-called "serious" elements within other parties. Others argue that satire is a high form of political discussion. In countries where political parties receive electoral funding from the state, joke parties are also accused[by whom?] of wasting tax-payers' money. Conversely, proponents of joke parties believe they waste no more money than any other party which receives funding.

See also

References

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