2024-05-20 11:31:59
Pirates Score Big in German Election politics

BusinessWeek

hancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party sits at the top of the list. Below are the Social Democrats (SPD), the Free Democratic Party (FDP), the Left Party, the Greens and the Christian Social Union (CSU). And there, at the very bottom, are the Pirates.

At around 2:20 a.m. local time, when the organization managing the federal elections published the voting results for all of Germany’s 16 federal states on its Web site, the nation saw a new power sitting on the seventh rung of the political ladder: The Pirate Party had managed to get 2 percent of the vote.

Granted, it’s not enough for the party to enter the German government, since a political party has to get 5 percent of the vote to do that. But for political newcomers like the Pirates, this can be interpreted as a success worth paying attention to. In many large German cities, they even got as much as 3 percent of the vote. And they were particularly popular among first-time male voters, from whom they might have won as much as 13 percent of the vote.

“This election has shown that the issues we’re campaigning for are important and that we will be more successful in the future,” party leader Jens Seipenbusch said at its post-election celebration. In a short time, his party has become the unofficial representative of Internet activists in Germany who don’t feel any affinity for the other parties and who have been feeling threatened in their natural environment—that is, online.
CDU Internet Laws Boost Pirate Popularity

The Pirates have the CDU to thank for their strong result. When it comes to Internet issues, two politicians from the CDU embody the treachery of the grand coalition—that is, the uneasy combination of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democrats (SPD) that has been running the country for the past four years: Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, with his laws regarding Internet surveillance and spying, and Family Minister Ursula von der Leyen, with her well-publicized list of banned sites in her campaign to fight online child pornography. Internet activists have suggested that rather than banning the sites, the content should be erased. An online petition started by Franziska Heine against “Zensursula” laws—a word play on the German word for censorship and von der Leyen’s first name—secured more than 130,000 signatures. The petition got a lot of media attention—and so did the Pirate Party.

During discussions about the law on blocking Web sites, politicians from the grand coalition demonstrated their ignorance about technical aspects of the online world—and a bit of arrogance to boot. That certainly didn’t hurt the Pirates’ numbers in the election. The Pirate Party was founded in 2006, and since the beginning of the year, its membership has increased tenfold. At last count, it had around 9,200 members, which makes it the seventh-largest party in Germany.
High on Hype, Low on Ideology

The Pirates’ power was only really recognized after the elections for the European Parliament in June. At that time, the original Swedish version of the Pirate Party made it into the European Parliament with 7.4 percent of the national vote. The German Pirate Party managed to get 0.9 percent. Since then, its proposals championing the free exchange of culture and scientific information on the Internet and a new set of copyright laws have been seen and heard everywhere.

Still, the young party continues to wrestle with its identity, while its members wrangle with each other. They primarily campaign for strengthened data privacy protection, respecting users’ rights and Internet freedom. And the members recognize this. But the fact that its platform only includes these few items—and that the party seems to lack a deeper ideology—makes the Pirates seem to many much more like a protest party.

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