Will the Pirates Capture Germany?
The crisis surrounding the euro is leading to growing dissatisfaction with existing parties all over the eurozone. In France, as explained here last week, the current crisis has breathed new life into the far left. In Germany, where the far-left Die Linke party is the successor of the Communist Party of East-Germany, an altogether new party has emerged: the Piratenpartei, the Pirates' Party.
"I recognize we have a Nazi problem in the Pirates," Harmut Semken, the head of the Berlin PP said. "There's no alternative: a party which accepts members without any pre-screening can't help but attract people trying to hide their contempt for humanity behind freedom of expression," he added. It is, however, a strange position for a party not to allow any criticism of immigration and religions, such as Islam, while at the same time condoning anti-Semitic activities under the pretext
The Pirate movement, which originated in Sweden in 2006, began as a loosely organized group of digital activists whose main aim is the free sharing of information online, including through less stringent copyright laws. Their political activities began with protesting the raid of the Swedish police on the Stockholm servers of the website The Pirate Bay, where music and movies could be downloaded illegally. In 2009, the Swedish Piratpartiet won 7.1 percent of the votes and two of Sweden's 20 seats in the European Parliament. In the EP, the Pirates belong to the Green Group, led by the Franco-German former revolutionary Daniel Cohn-Bendit. Following the Swedish example, PPs were established in some 40 countries, but none has had the electoral impact of the German branch.
The Pirates want an exemption of non-commercial activity from copyright regulations and advocate the abolishment of patents. They want to strengthen civil rights and abolish anti-terrorism laws which violate people's right to privacy.
The German PP's party platform states that "migration enriches society" and advocates open borders and unlimited access to immigrants. According to the Pirates all cultures and religions are equal. The party says it strongly opposes discrimination and racism. It also favors further European integration. The party is mainly perceived to be critical of the EU because it opposes the European data retention policies. Regarding social issues, the Pirates are extremely liberal. They even advocate abolishing the legal ban on incest.
May 6 is D-day for the European Union: there will be three elections then. That day the French will elect their new president. If Nicolas Sarkozy loses, the EU's common currency, the euro, will lose one of its staunchest supporters. There will also be general elections in Greece. These will probably be won by opposition parties rejecting the EU imposed austerity measures. Without these measures, Greece will not be able to remain in the eurozone and the euro will begin to unravel. There will also be state elections in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein, probably marking another step in the Pirates' march on Berlin.
Opinion polls predict that Germany's PP might win over 10 percent of the votes in next year's general elections. In the 2009 European elections, the party won only 0.9 percent of the votes. In the September 2011 Berlin state elections, however, it won 8.9 percent and in last March's Saarland state elections it won 7.4 percent. The Pirates are also expected to do well in two important state elections in early May: May 6 in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, and May 13 in Germany's most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW).
The Pirates' advance is causing a serious headache for German Chancellor Angela Merkel. During the past two years, Merkel and Sarkozy formed the tandem upholding the euro. If Sarkozy is beaten and the Pirates' appeal keeps growing, Merkel seems bound to lose next year's Bundestag elections.
The disenchantment of European voters with the euro, will, however, have repercussions for the rest of the world. Unfortunately, the parties that are currently profiting from the euro's unpopularity are endangering the good relations between Europe and its Western allies, America and Israel. The Piratenpartei's surge has come at the expense the Germany's mainstream parties. The Pirates pushed the centrist Liberal Party FDP under the electoral threshold in both Berlin and Saarland. Polls predict that the same thing will probably happen in Schleswig-Holstein, where the Pirates are polling 10 percent, and in NRW, where they are polling 8 percent.
If the Pirates manage to do the same thing in next year's general elections – which seems ever more likely – Merkel's ruling Christian-Democrat Party will lose its coalition partner and Germany, like France, will move dramatically to the left.
On major issues of the day, however, such as the eurozone debt crisis, the PP platform lacks policies. "We have to be honest: We should just say that we don't know yet what our position is," says Matthias Bock, a Pirate candidate in NRW. Bock wants the collective intelligence of the community to find solutions for the budget deficit through crowd-sourcing.
Last week, the Pirates were criticized by the Central Council of German Jews. Dieter Graumann, the Council's president, questioned the PP's decision not to oust PP member Bodo Thiesen, despite comments he made about the Holocaust and Germany's role in starting the Second World War. In a 2008 YouTube video, Thiesen defended convicted Holocaust denier Germar Rudolf. Thiesen also tried to alter entries on the German Wikipedia regarding the Holocaust and the German invasion of Poland in 1939, which he claimed was provoked by the Polish.
Meanwhile, however, a poll indicates that 37 percent of the Germans would want to see the Pirates enter the German Parliament next year. 24 percent would even welcome their participation in a government coalition. Nevertheless, 83 percent are convinced that a vote for the Pirates is a protest vote while only 8 percent think that voters are convinced by the Pirates's proposals. It is surprising that, given the Germans' earlier experience with political adventurers, almost a quarter of them would not object to Pirates in government.
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