Berlin pirates force FDP to walk the plank


CHANCELLOR ANGELA Merkel’s junior coalition partner has crashed out of the Berlin city-state parliament, a final humiliation in a series of election disasters.

The Free Democrats (FDP) will exit the capital’s parliament, replaced – in a German premiere – by the “Pirate Party”, a new political alliance pushing civil rights and online data protection.

After 10 years in power Berlin’s so-called “Red-Red” coalition of Social Democrats (SPD) and Left Party has lost its majority. Despite losing support, SPD mayor Klaus Wowereit is likely to head a new coalition government, most likely with the Greens.

“Of course we have the most in common with the Greens, but the most important thing is that the Greens embraces politics of progress and not standstill,” said Mr Wowereit. Opinion polls last night suggested he was heading into his third term as mayor and head of government with 29 per cent support.

The Christian Democrats (CDU) gained two per cent to 23 per cent while the Greens, after peaking early, rose four points to 17 per cent.

“This is a record for the Greens in Berlin after a year of Green successes, while the SPD has lost support,” said Renate Künast of the Green Party. “Now it’s about getting beyond a decade of red-red standstill.” State elections in Germany are usually dominated by local themes and in Berlin, state polls are of limited federal importance. Exit poll analysis nevertheless revealed voters were turned off by the FDP’s recent euro zone strategy.

Last week, FDP leader Philip Rösler suggested EU leaders should discuss a possible Greek insolvency. The FDP’s Berlin leader Christoph Mayer admitted yesterday that the “FDP brand is damaged”, while party general secretary Christian Linder described the result in Berlin as a “low point” for federal FDP.

Just 2 per cent of Berlin voters thought Dr Merkel’s junior coalition partners were competent to deal with the euro crisis. Some 84 per cent saw the party as divided and lacking good leadership.

“I’m very happy the FDP was punished in Berlin for its path of euro populism,” said Claudia Roth, federal leader of the Greens.

The poll was a huge success for the Pirate Party: from a standing start, the five-year-old party won nearly 9 per cent support with its calls for greater internet privacy and protection of civil rights.