Pirate Party Gets Elected to Second German State Parliament

Four members of the German Pirate Party have been elected to the Saarland state parliament, the second state in the country in which the party, associated with copyright issues, has gotten a foothold.

The Pirate Party won four seats in the Saarland Parliament, a relatively small German state bordering Luxembourg and France, with a little more than 1 million inhabitants. With their victory, the Piratenpartei, as the Pirate Party is known in Germany, is bigger in Saarland than the Green Party, which managed to get two seats in the state parliament.

The other three parties that made it into the parliament are The Left, with nine seats, the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), with 17 seats, and Prime Minister Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), with 19 seats. The Pirate Party managed to get 7.4 percent of the votes, with 35,646 votes.

Though the Pirate Party, led in Saarland by the 22-year-old Jasmin Maurer, has been associated with copyright issues, it did not focus on copyright in its election campaign. Instead, the party focused on transparent government, access to education as a prerequisite, and the right of the people to actively partake in the decision making process.

Rick Falkvinge, the founder of the original Swedish Pirate Party, congratulated his colleagues in Saarland in a YouTube message. He praised the achievements of the German Pirate Party, and said the party in Germany managed to cross the barrier from a purely activist movement, to become a group that resonates with the general population.

"I think that is key to going outside of Berlin, which is after all a very progressive city," Falkvinge said. He sees the Saarland election as an indication that the Pirate Party can get accepted as a movement anywhere.

The Pirate Party is on the rise in Germany. The Saarland election was the second time the party got elected to a state parliament. In 2011, 15 Pirate Party members were elected to take part in the state parliament of Berlin. In the 2009 national elections, the Pirate Party did not reach the 5 percent threshold required for representation in the national Parliament. However, they received 2 percent of the votes, a higher percentage than other small parties.

According to recent opinion polls done by Infratest Dimap, the Pirate Party could count on 6 percent of the German votes if there were a national election now. There are state elections set for May 9 in Schleswig-Holstein, where the Pirate Party can get 5 percent of the votes, according to the most recent polls. And in the polls for the state elections in Nordrhein-Westphalia, to be held on May 13, the Pirate Party has scored 5 percent of votes in polls.

In Sweden, the party received 0.65 percent of the votes in the last national election, held in 2010. The Swedish Pirate Party, however, has managed to get two members elected to the European Parliament. The highest post a member of the Pirate Party ever achieved was deputy to the Minister for Youth and Sports in Tunisia, a post held by Slim Amamou from January to May 2011.

The election in Saarland is a good example of recent Pirate Party progress, said Samir Allioui, president of Pirate Parties International, the umbrella organization for pirate parties. He emphasized that the Pirate Party is a fast-growing international movement. "Pirate Parties exist in more than 60 countries right now," he said in a phone interview, emphasizing that it is not a solely European affair.

The international organization thrives on volunteers. Not every national pirate party is a member of the umbrella organization, said Allioui. "Every Pirate Party is very young," he said, however. Most members have a day job in addition to involvement in the party. The national parties are due to strengthen international ties on April 14 and 15 during a conference in Prague.

Loek covers all things tech for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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