At a loss

Three Christian minor parties will be on the ballot in this federal election. The "German Center Party", as Germany's oldest party, the "Christian Center" and the "Party of Bible-Believing Christians". All three have no chance of getting into the Bundestag and exerting influence. Why are these parties campaigning anyway?

This Sunday could mark another step toward political sidelining for the venerable party. From 1870 to 1933, the then Catholic Center Party helped write German history. Its chairman, Ludwig Windthorst, was one of the most important opponents of Reich Chancellor Otto von Bismarck during the Empire; during the Weimar Republic, it provided the head of government no less than four times. But today, the now interdenominational association has only about 827 members, according to recent data. They will not play a special role at the end of the super election year 2009, ames the political scientist Benjamin Hohne from Trier. The center, he said, has barely emerged from the overpowering shadow of the CDU since the 1950s. And the two younger associations, the Party of Bible-Believing Christians (PBC), founded in 1989, and the Christian Center, which emerged from the Center a year earlier, tend to appeal to an extremely conservative clientele. Whereby the PBC shows a strong evangelical imprint, the Christian Center, on the other hand, emphasizes Old Testament references. According to Hohne, all of the above-mentioned parties are united in their propagation of a traditional image of the family and their comparatively low tolerance of other lifestyles. Thus, on the homepage of the Christian Center, the leaflet "Scientific findings on homosexuality" is one of the most frequently downloaded documents. In it, the party chairwoman Adelgunde Mertesacker calls homosexuality an "aberration against nature" that is responsible for the death of millions of people from AIDS. The PBC also devotes a prominent space to the topic and treats the desire for a same-sex relationship as a treatable phenomenon. Obviously, it is not possible to gain significant political influence in this way. In the 2005 federal election, the PBC, the most successful of the Christian minor parties, barely won 109.000 second votes – out of a total of 47 million valid votes at the time. Clearly too little to benefit from state party funding. Why the Center, the PBC and the Christian Center nevertheless run commercials and put up posters is explained by Hohne's need to get messages across to the public that would otherwise have little majority support in German society. Unlike in the U.S., for example, there is no conservative "Bible belt" in this country whose population could exert prere on the established parties or provide an appropriate social basis for new foundations. While a marginal electoral focus of the Center lies in North Rhine-Westphalia, the other two candidates cannot be clearly assigned to any region. A "home country" from which the party landscape of the Federal Republic could be conquered does not exist. The same applies to a powerful nationwide organizational structure. And so, in the future, only a few insiders will probably deal with the fate of the small Christian parties. Hohne believes that the center could even become a case for historians. The party threatens finally to sink into the Bedeutungslosigkeit.

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Christina Cherry
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