German Pirate Party third most popular

Thu, Apr 12, 2012, 01:00

GERMANY’S MAVERICK Pirate Party has gone from electoral fluke to the third most popular party, according to a new poll for Stern magazine.

In just four years the new arrival has overtaken the Green Party to become Germany’s third most popular political grouping, with 13 per cent support.

“For many young people, the Greens have become a stale, old-fashioned party,” said Manfred Güllner, poll analyst with Forsa polling agency.

Today’s poll data will increase anxiety among the Greens and across the political establishment – still struggling to cope with the emergence of the Left Party – that Germany’s political landscape has splintered once again.

Until now the Pirate Party’s regional rise has mirrored the fall from grace of the Free Democratic Party (FDP), Chancellor Merkel’s luckless coalition partner.

But with the FDP now apparently stable at five per cent, the Pirates have in their sights the one-time rebels in the Green Party.

In many ways the Pirates have co-opted the Green Party’s grassroots tradition for the Facebook generation. Formal Pirate party policy is still a work in progress but draws on the idea of universal access: to public transport, the internet, as well as knowledge and culture – through legalised file sharing or modified copyright protection on everything from music to pharmaceuticals.

Just as important as the party’s message is the medium: social media like Facebook and Twitter, public online discussions as well as regular open-door meetings.

The success of the fledgling party has come as a surprise to everyone, not least party members who have found themselves elected to regional office often with only basic party structures.

From a standing start, the Pirates polled two per cent in Germany’s 2009 general election. Last year’s 9 per cent share in a Berlin state poll was dismissed as a protest vote from the capital’s army of young digital bohemians.

But that analysis went out the window when the Pirates seized 7.4 per cent of the vote in the tiny western state of Saarland. With state polls looming next month in Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia – all bets are off.

For now, Forsa says the Pirates are trading on its protest character among younger German voters disenchanted with the established parties. But, as the Greens once showed, disenchantment can be a powerful catalyst for change.