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Pirate Party’s Electoral Success in Germany, Americans Elect and the Muslim Brotherhood Spring

COMMENT: As expect­ed, the Ger­man Pirate Par­ty [1] did well in the recent state elec­tions in Ger­many. A recent New York Times arti­cle high­lights some con­sid­er­a­tions raised by the par­ty’s recent mete­oric rise. 

We sup­ple­ment these with some of our own rumi­na­tions:

“Upstarts Con­tin­ue to Hijack Votes in Ger­many” by Melis­sa Eddy; The New York Times; 5/8/2012. [12]

EXCERPT: When the results in Germany’s most recent state elec­tion came down, the Pirate Par­ty cued up what could be their new theme song: “We are the Cham­pi­ons” by the rock group Queen blared from the speak­ers as exit polls showed the young par­ty enter­ing the third region­al leg­is­la­ture in three elec­tions.

The 8.2 per­cent share of the vote the Pirates won on Sun­day in Schleswig-Hol­stein, the large­ly rur­al, north­ern­most state, solid­i­fied the pres­ence of the upstart par­ty in Germany’s polit­i­cal land­scape, prov­ing its abil­i­ty to attract vot­ers beyond the Twit­ter­sphere who are fed up with a polit­i­cal bureau­cra­cy they view as dis­con­nect­ed from the peo­ple. The Pirates drew thou­sands of vot­ers from the tra­di­tion­al cen­ter-right and cen­ter-left par­ties, an analy­sis of the results showed, in addi­tion to about 10,000 vot­ers who cast bal­lots for the first time. Their next chal­lenge comes this Sun­day, when an elec­tion will be held in Germany’s most pop­u­lous state, North Rhine-West­phalia.

Although the Pirate Par­ty, formed six years ago in Berlin, has dropped recent­ly in the polls, it looks poised to earn enough bal­lots to clear the 5 per­cent thresh­old need­ed to win seats in the state leg­is­la­ture there as well. Such a show­ing would be an impor­tant mile­stone for the par­ty, giv­en that near­ly a quar­ter of the Ger­man pop­u­la­tion calls the state home, and it would undoubt­ed­ly add a new dimen­sion to the polit­i­cal pres­sures heaped on Chan­cel­lor Angela Merkel as she tries to nav­i­gate the com­pet­ing domes­tic and Euro­pean-wide demands about how best to address the euro cri­sis.

“If the Pirates can do well in an unfa­vor­able envi­ron­ment, like North Rhine-West­phalia,” said Oskar Nie­der­may­er, a polit­i­cal sci­en­tist at the Free Uni­ver­si­ty in Berlin, “then it is a good rea­son to say that they have a strong chance in the next gen­er­al elec­tion.” The Pirates have built their suc­cess on lit­tle more than a vague plat­form of greater open­ness in gov­ern­ment, using tech­nol­o­gy.

Though they have failed to offer their own solu­tions to the Continent’s eco­nom­ic cri­sis, the Pirates have suc­ceed­ed in attract­ing protest vot­ers, an angry share of the elec­torate that is expand­ing even in Ger­many, though for rea­sons oppo­site those of many oth­er parts of Europe. Weary of the pains of aus­ter­i­ty, vot­ers in France on Sun­day elect­ed the Social­ist François Hol­lande, who has promised to make growth Europe’s new pri­or­i­ty. In par­lia­men­tary elec­tions, Greek vot­ers, too, balked at the heavy costs of the belt-tight­en­ing that Ms. Merkel has demand­ed.

Ger­mans, on the oth­er hand, appear increas­ing­ly wary of the costs that the bailouts and pro-growth poli­cies advo­cat­ed by Euro­peans else­where may end up cost­ing them. The Pirates have expand­ed their base by tap­ping into those fears, as well as address­ing the feel­ing among many Ger­mans that deci­sions regard­ing the euro cri­sis have been made over their heads, in ways not ful­ly trans­par­ent. Many feel that Ger­mans, unlike oth­er Euro­peans, did the hard work of reform for them­selves in the 1990s and that the trou­bles of their neigh­bors now threat­en to strip them of the rewards. . . . .

. . . . One of the biggest prob­lems they face is a lack of con­crete posi­tions on heavy­weight issues, like the euro cri­sis or mil­i­tary deploy­ments abroad. So far the party’s lead­ers have ducked this prob­lem, argu­ing that they have not yet had the time to come up with a clear posi­tion. What they do know is how to ral­ly vot­ers around the idea of increased trans­paren­cy and direct vot­er par­tic­i­pa­tion through tech­nol­o­gy and the Inter­net.

Issues are to be devel­oped, debat­ed and amend­ed direct­ly by par­ty mem­bers through Liq­uid Feed­back, an open source plat­form devel­oped in Berlin. A local branch of the Pirates in the south­west­ern region of Tri­er held their first decen­tral­ized par­ty con­gress last week, link­ing mem­bers in three dif­fer­ent loca­tions via video con­fer­ence, while the lead­ing Pirate in Kiel, Torge Schmidt, wants all of the legislature’s com­mit­tee meet­ings to be streamed live over the Inter­net.

Those changes in favor of greater open­ness, many now argue, can­not be ignored. “The Pirates have brought about an impor­tant val­ue sys­tem by say­ing, we want a very trans­par­ent polit­i­cal sys­tem, and we want cit­i­zens to par­tic­i­pate in this,” Mr. Nie­der­may­er said. “That is what has elec­tri­fied many vot­ers.” . .

EXCERPT FROM HARD COPY VERSION OF SAME STORY, 5/9/2012. p. A10. . . . . The upstart Pirates formed only six years ago in Berlin and made up part­ly of eth­nic Danes, are expect­ed to win at least 5 per­cent of the bal­lots, . . .