The leader of Austria’s Beer Party, Dominik Wlazny holds a press conference on this year’s parliamentary election in Vienna, Austria, January 18, 2024. Reuters/Lisa Leutner
Austria's Beer Party, founded largely as a joke, hopes to provide some kick against more established parties as its leader on Thursday announced plans to run in this year's parliamentary elections.
The party, set up in 2015, is known for its light-hearted projects but has taken serious swipes at the political establishment and those embroiled in corruption and other scandals.
It has campaigned on issues as frivolous as installing public beer fountains in Vienna, but also on improving the public health system.
It ran in the last parliamentary election in 2019 and secured just 0.1% of the vote but its leader Dominik Wlazny, a 37-year-old doctor and rock musician with the stage name Marco Pogo, came third in 2022's presidential election with 8.3%. To enter parliament, a party needs 4% of the vote.
"Yes, we are ready, for now," Wlazny told a news conference in a black hooded sweatshirt, outlining issues including reducing child poverty, improving equality of opportunity in education and addressing the surging cost of living.
"Why are we doing this? We don't want to moan but rather do things ourselves. Because we are convinced the Beer Party can make a positive contribution in parliament," he said.
Whether the party actually enters the race, however, will depend on whether it can gather enough funds, which is plans to do by increasing its membership to 20,000 by the end of April from "around 1,300 active members" at the end of 2023, Wlazny said. Party membership dues are 59 euros a year, he added.
Any effect on other parties in the race remains to be seen. The party has been particularly critical of the far-right Freedom Party, which is currently leading in the polls.
The Beer Party's egalitarian message also appeals to left-wing voters: the leader of the opposition Social Democrats, Andreas Babler, has said he voted for Wlazny in the last presidential election.
Reporting by Francois Murphy