It’s been described as a group of “new rebels” and dismissed as a naive “protest party,” but now, in Germany’s capital, the Pirate Party has surged forward, taking 8.9 per cent of the vote and ousting members of Chancellor Merkel’s coalition from the state parliament.But who is this group of swashbuckling campaigners? And, more importantly, what do they want?
Der Spiegel reports that the party, founded in 2006, campaigns largely on a platform revolving around Internet freedoms. Making government documents public, free public transport and suffrage for over-14-year-olds are also policies of this young dissenting movement.
German media and opponents of the party are attributing its success to discontent with the status quo, but the Pirate Party movement is growing internationally. Though the party has a “rough and ready” charm (campaign posters were made by individual party members rather than advertising agencies) there is some organisation to this cohort.
In 2010, Pirate International was born after 44 delegates from the international pirate community met in Brussels. Not everyone joined; the Swedish Pirate Party that won seats in its country’s 2009 election didn’t want to for example, but the international group managed to draw up a constitution of membership, pledging an apolitical stance while outlining their shared ideals.
That particular pledge, however, seems to have worn thin, and as Germany’s pirates not only ran, but flourished, in this week’s elections more questions began to be raised about their policies.
Deutsche Welle questioned the party’s platform, probing that the removal of copyright legislation (which dovetails with the Pirate Party’s general concept of increasing the availability of information) was also removing rights from several citizens. Other policies, like guaranteeing a basic living wage and providing free public transport have also been dismissed as naive given wider economic circumstances.
Whether the Pirate Party can survive when faced with reality and make a meaningful contribution to German politics is up in the air. The party has, however, attracted some modest attention and it can rest assured there are at least some people listening to its message.
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