German Pirate Party sets sail for Bundestag
Snowden NSA revelations boost data-protection campaigners’ electoral prospects
A German Pirate Party activist calling for less video surveillance holds a mop mounted with security cameras outside the chancellery in Berlin yesterday. Photograph: John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images
The US National Security Agency whistleblower’s state surveillance revelations have handed a golden opportunity to the burgeoning party that demands higher digital privacy standards.
Still two points shy of the Bundestag’s 5 per cent hurdle, the party is optimistic of still attracting nonvoters and undecideds, particularly net-savvy younger voters.
“I think we can – unhappily – use this NSA scandal for our ends,” said Pirate hopeful Anke Domscheit-Berg, a leading voice in the party’s NSA-critical campaign. She is well-placed: her husband Daniel worked with Julian Assange before walking out and writing a WikiLeaks exposé.
For Ms Domscheit-Berg, raised in East Germany, state surveillance is not an abstract threat but a real memory.
“I was 21 when the Berlin Wall fell, I went through Stasi interrogations and opened letters . . . I experienced in person how it feels when a state spies on its citizens,” she said.
But the Pirate Party’s key election issue is fighting a fading memory for many Germans.
Fewer than one in five cite the NSA and privacy as an election concern. Anti-Stasi campaigners see this as a welcome sign that, after two dictatorships, Germans are learning to trust their state.
But in the digital, “war on terror” age, the Pirates’ campaign claims this trust is misplaced. In this campaign, like the Green Party three decades earlier, the Pirates hopes to move to being a one-issue party in the Bundestag. Party leader Bernd Schlömer has said that, if the Pirates enter parliament, they could envisage supporting a minority Social Democrat-Green coalition.
“On social topics we have 80 per cent agreement with the SPD,” he said.