An “upstart” party has invaded Germany’s politicsby Katharina Kehl / June 20, 2012 / Leave a comment
Published in July 2012 issue of Prospect Magazine
Last autumn, ahead of a local election, Berliners were amused by a small raft navigating its way through the capital’s canals. The boat sailed under a black and orange banner. Its crew was young men in shirts and hoodies, listening to electronic music and swigging Club Mate (a strong caffeine drink favoured by computer geeks). They were handing out leaflets for a political group few Germans had ever heard of: the Pirate Party. Named after the online file-sharing platform “The Pirate Bay,” and taking its inspiration from the original Pirate movement in Sweden, the party’s central policies seemed to be the denunciation of internet censorship and the call for free online file sharing. Yet in Berlin’s election in September, the Pirates captured 8.9 per cent of the vote and 15 seats in the regional legislature. Nine months later, the Pirates have won 45 seats in four German regional parliaments. They poll at 9-12 per cent nationwide, and have more than doubled their membership in the last eight months—30,000 people now sail under the Pirates’ flag.