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Pirates shake up German political landscape

The Local · 19 Sep 2011, 07:46

Published: 19 Sep 2011 07:46 GMT+02:00

Hailed by mass circulation daily Bild as an "election sensation", the party clinched around nine percent of the vote in Sunday's regional poll in Berlin, which was won by the Social Democrats and their popular mayor, Klaus Wowereit.

The Pirates, a youth movement with origins in Scandinavia and now active in around 20 countries, has been in Germany for five years and is beginning to shed its image as a "party for geeks."

The election win has thrust the party, and its leader, into the limelight.

"From IT-nerd to full-time politician," said the Financial Times Deutschland online edition introducing a profile of Andreas Baum, the head of the group.

Its supporters and leaders are young and well-educated – most of those who voted for the party were under 30, according to an election analysis by television channel ZDF.

"Ask your children why you should vote for the Pirates," runs one of its election posters. "We have the questions, you have the answers," says another.

Thirty-three-year-old telecoms engineer Baum, who was chosen by lot, told ZDF after the results: "We're going to get to work ... people will hear from us, of that you can be sure."

"Our grace period is over," Matthias Schrade, another senior member told AFP after the results. "Now we have to show that we want to get things moving," added Schrade, one of around 1,000 Pirates gathered in the grungy Berlin district of Kreuzberg to celebrate the results.

The party can expect to secure around 15 seats in the 130-seat Berlin regional parliament, according to initial calculations.

Campaigning mainly via the Internet, the Pirates spent less than a quarter of the €1.7 million ($2.3 million) shelled out by the victorious SPD party.

Their manifesto can be summed up in one word: "Transparency."

"We want to make public all data, all administrative procedures," said Martin Delius, a 27-year-old IT engineer.

On their online editions, major German dailies focused nearly as much on the Pirates as the winners of the election.

"The election success in Berlin will give the Pirates a powerful tailwind," commented the Freie Presse daily.

"If the political rising stars manage to sail nicely with the wind and get competent people at the wheel, then (Sunday's) victory may be more than just a warning shot," the paper added.

Observers put the Pirates' success down to a protest vote at mainstream politics, a theme echoed by Simon Weiss, a 26-year-old mathematics student and party supporter.

"The way politics is done annoys me," he said. "Either I do something myself, or nothing will happen", added Weiss, who described himself as a political "idealist."

Story continues below…

What all Pirates have in common is a desire for "better politics," he said. "There are plenty of people who think like me."

But other observers castigated the established parties, especially Chancellor Angela Merkel's junior coalition partners, the Free Democrats (FDP), for allowing such a party into the parliament.

"If the situation in the country were not so serious, you could put the success of the Pirate party down as a 'Berlin speciality'. In other words: Things are just a little bit different in the capital," said the Rhein Zeitung daily.

"But in fact, the Pirates' victory makes a mockery of the established parties. Apart from the Pirates, no one should be celebrating this election, least of all the FDP.

According to partial results from Berlin, the FDP were the big losers in Sunday's election, being ejected from the parliament with a mere 1.8 percent of the votes cast.


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

11:02 September 19, 2011 by freechoice
Yeah! power to the common people! stop those old school political parties who kowtow to corporate interests!! Pirate Party means more wiki-leaks and transparency. We will show those politicians who are their paymasters!
11:49 September 19, 2011 by pepsionice
If the Pirates could convince the majority of kids between 18 and 24 to vote for them....they'd start reaching reaching around eight percent of the national vote. It would be hard to say how the CDU or SPD would vote a partnership with them or what cabinet posts would be offered.
13:38 September 19, 2011 by auslanderus
From what I have seen of 18-24 year olds, they have oittle knowledge to even wipe there butt and now you want them to vote......and as for 14 year olds, tell them it's like XBox and then they still will go what? 14's can't tell you where Berlin is let alone vote...
14:11 September 19, 2011 by Querulant
I certainly don't support all points on their agenda, but largely I welcome the Piraten on the political map of Germany. My favourite scenario would be that they take the torch from the Greens, who so successfully pushed their agenda into the political mainstream that by now they don't have a lot of agenda left, and that the Pirates do the same. The next 10 years will be to a noticeable degree about integrating the Internet and its consequences into modern societies, this process has already begun in many respects. The Swedes are in many regards ahead of us Germans there, but we seem to be able and willing to push this further into the mainstream than they are, and the fact that while in many countries you see Anonymous in riots, in Germany you see the Piraten run for the administration, gives me a good feeling about this country.
14:22 September 19, 2011 by derExDeutsche
I like some of the ideas, others are just ridiculous. After all, kowtowing to the under 14 and unemployed is not much better than kowtowing to corporations. And making everything free, how will anyone make a living? Some good ideas, lots of kooky ones. its a socialist teenager in ideology. How about real 'rights', like ownership?
14:32 September 19, 2011 by willowsdad
How do the Pirates plan to resist the corruption endemic to the system if they ever achieve power?
14:36 September 19, 2011 by n230099
"Their manifesto can be summed up in one word: "Transparency."

Well be careful. We here in the US bought that line and elected a knothead that is more duplicitous and shady than all others before him.

And always remember when reading the term "free" that there's no such thing as 'free stuff', only stuff paid for by somebody else.
14:38 September 19, 2011 by Querulant

Heh, that's what I would call a "Totschlagargument". In any case, I'm sure if they get to that point, many of them will get fat and complacent by shaking the wrong hands, but as long as that doesn't hinder their main agenda being carried to the mainstream, that's an acceptable price. The Greens managed to get the Nuclear plants offline, so whatever you may think of that or the Greens in general, staying at least true to your main talking point seems to be a possibility.
14:51 September 19, 2011 by derExDeutsche
@ Querulant

'and the fact that while in many countries you see Anonymous in riots, in Germany you see the Piraten run for the administration, gives me a good feeling about this country. '

Anonymous are protesting in Lower Manhattan about lobbyists, banks and corporations. What a bunch of phonys. They refuse to take on Obama and the Govt. because he's their ideological leader. They are communists who do not criticize the Govt., because they hope to help it shut down the free market and redistribute wealth. Anonymous = Technology wing of the Communist Party.
15:06 September 19, 2011 by Querulant

I think it's not as simple as that. Anonymous is pretty much what one could consider a virtual flash mob. Even their more criminal activity works that way, by supplying ready-made technology to those willing to support the cause of the day. A majority of them has no real programming skill or deeper understanding of the things they support or oppose. Anonymous had the brilliant idea of developing an "app" for cyber terrorism, easy to use for everyone who wants in. If they mainly support the "little guy", that's not surprising, seeing how most of them ARE the little guy.

But I have no real understanding of who is to blame for the financial crisis, neither in the USA nor in Europe, so (in my very limited view, the blame seems to be distributed rather equally on the shoulders of the Government that created the conditions and the Big Money that was all too eager to abuse them).
15:21 September 19, 2011 by catjones
Will they remove snow from the berlin sidewalks?
16:33 September 19, 2011 by derExDeutsche

Unfortunately, you are right, very few in Anonymous care what caused the financial collapse. What they do want, however, is to pick a fight with the capitalist system that has created the most prosperous and most free societies on the planet. Ironic in that it is the most free Societies they wish to collapse. Their recently released apps are intended to attack banks and those they disagree with. No mention that those banks were fulfilling the orders of the Federal Govt., and that they went themselves bankrupt in the process. No word from them, about Govt. debt, no. if they were honest with themselves, they would have to admit that they are not much more than amateur Govt. stooges using violence against private persons and property, to negotiate a handout. protesting for fun, and in the process creating the police state build up in our major cities they claim to despise.
17:02 September 19, 2011 by Querulant

I know this may sound a tad paranoid, but seeing how flashmob-like the whole Anon movement is, I am actually considering the possibility of at least some of the instigators being false flag operatives intending to bring about exactly that kind of police state you are talking about. That is exactly why I am happy to see German geeks try it with participation.
14:06 September 24, 2011 by AbhilashD
These guys are a joke. Seriously? There are bigger problems around.
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