Remember the Pirate Party in Germany? We blogged about them months ago after they were surprisingly successful in state elections in Berlin last year. In that election, long dominant parties like Angela Merkel’s coalition partners, the Free Democrats, crashed and burned, and the Pirate Party, seemingly a crew of scruffy, twenty-something internet activists, did so well that they won a seat for all 15 candidates on their list.Since then, the party has come up against entrenched interests and Germany’s immobile political machine. Yet its message has not died, says Der Spiegel:
Pollsters predict that the Pirate Party will capture between 5 and 7 percent of the vote in Schleswig-Holstein’s state parliamentary election on May 6 (see graphic). In the western state of Saarland, the Pirates, who describe themselves as the “party of the information society,” [were] taken by surprise by the recent collapse of the coalition of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Greens. With new elections set for March 25, its entry into the state parliament is seen as likely. The party is polling at around 5 percent, which is impressive for a party that didn’t even have a state-level platform in early March.
The Pirates’ message of political openness and transparency—politics by the people—is resonating. (Some of the Pirate’s other initiatives, like legalizing all drugs, are not quite so popular.) Old-time German politicians are finding that they can only dismiss the Pirates at their peril.“We are, after all, the party of participation,” said one of the Pirates’ leaders. Der Spiegel says that “those who vote for the Pirates are primarily voting for a different way of conducting politics. Questions about actual policies can be addressed later.” Even in states like Saarland, where “urban Internet nerds are a rare species,” the Pirates are rolling with the widespread feeling that the governing coalition is corrupt and ineffective.The Pirates are in many ways riding a global wave that won’t die out anytime soon. Young people, enabled by the internet, want to participate in politics and throw out the bums. It’s not just in the Arab world where disaffected and passionate youths are waking up to the fact that old institutions and social arrangements are failing them. It’s happening in Germany, and it will happen in other places. Maybe even in the United States.