'Get Rid of Bavaria' Separatists Harness Humor for Europe Campaign

Many Germans would love to get rid of Bavaria. Now, a small separatist party from the southern state is giving voters the chance.
Von Siobhán Dowling

For most foreigners, Germany is little more than Oktoberfest, the Alps, beer, lederhosen and the Bayern Munich football club. The stereotypes, though, apply to just one corner of Germany -- the state of Bavaria, which happens to be Germany's biggest and richest.

The Bavaria Party's campaign aims to persuade other Germans that they would be better off without Bavaria.

The Bavaria Party's campaign aims to persuade other Germans that they would be better off without Bavaria.

Foto: Getty Images

Much of the rest of the country, though, regards this wealthy southern colossus with a mixture of bemusement, derision and loathing. It's like a German version of Texas.

Now a Bavarian separatist party is hoping to harness this animosity in the European parliamentary elections. The tiny Bavaria Party has come up with a tongue-in-cheek posters asking "Don't you want to get rid of the Bavarians?" which feature a woman in traditional dirndl and a man in lederhosen walking away as they wave goodbye.

The party, which has been campaigning for an independent Bavarian nation since the 1940s, has even set up an accompanying Web site. It asks: "Honestly, don't the Bavarians annoy us all?" and then proceeds to list all these annoyances, such as the "senseless jabbering," and sense of superiority as well as all those "pointless mountains and boring lakes." The site says that Bavaria never really belonged to Germany and "is better suited to Austria than us." The tract ends with the rallying cry: "Whoever finally wants to kick Bavaria out of the Federal Republic of Germany, simply needs to give their vote to the BP -- in all of Germany."

Richard Schoeps, spokesman for the Bavaria Party, says that the campaign is of course intended to be "ironic," aimed at poking fun at the way other Germans regard Bavaria as well as publicizing the party.

The party is campaigning all across the country in the hopes of leaping the 5-percent hurdle necessary to send delegates to the European Parliament. "We want an independent sovereign state of Bavaria within a Europe of regions," he told SPIEGEL ONLINE on Wednesday. "We know what other Germans say about Bavaria. We were chatting about how we could sell ourselves better and started joking and that's how the idea of the poster came up."

Schoeps says the campaign has indeed succeeded in drawing attention to the party, which has just 5,000 members, the vast majority of whom are in Bavaria. The party is hoping to outdo its paltry 0.4 percent result in the 2004 European vote. "We definitely think we will do better this time," he says.

Schoeps admits that some other Germans might vote for his party simply because they really don't like Bavarians or just don't take the European elections all that seriously, but he hopes others will do so because they support their cause.

"Some will have seen our posters and read our campaign program and maybe they support more decentralization." And he even hopes the idea will spread beyond Bavaria's borders. "Maybe they will now want independence for their states too."

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