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Austria's Beer Party, seeing glass half-full, runs for parliament

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The leader of Austria's Beer Party, Dominik Wlazny, speaks during a press conference on this year's parliamentary election in Vienna, Austria, April 30, 2024. Reuters/Elisabeth Mandl

Austria's Beer Party will run in this year's parliamentary election even though it's still well short of its own funding target, its leader said on Tuesday, buoyed by growing support and choosing to see the glass as half-full.

The party, founded largely as a joke in 2015 by medical doctor and rock musician Dominik Wlazny, now poses a real threat of siphoning off votes from other parties, particularly those also on the left, at a time when the far right has a clear lead in the polls.

"Yes, the Beer Party will run in the coming parliamentary election. The support we have received is massive. That gives us the motivation to go through with it," Wlazny, 37, said in a statement to the media.

In January, he said entering the race would depend on whether it had gathered enough funds, which it planned to do by increasing its membership to 20,000 from "around 1,300 active members" at the end of 2023. On Tuesday he conceded it was still far short of that, with the election due to be held by October.

"We have fulfilled more than half of our funding goal. Our glass is half-full, so to speak, and more is being poured in constantly," said Wlazny.

The party ran in the last parliamentary election in 2019 and secured just 0.1% of the vote, but Wlazny came third in 2022's presidential election with 8.3%. Recent opinion polls have put its support between 5% and 7%.

To enter parliament, a party needs 4%.

The party has previously campaigned on serious issues and those that are less so, ranging from improving the public health system to installing public beer fountains in Vienna.

In contrast to the relaxed and iconoclastic style he projects, Wlazny's recent appearances have been carefully stage managed. He took no questions from reporters after his brief statement on Tuesday.

Reporting by Francois Murphy

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