It was a mixed set of results for Pirate Parties in the European Parliament elections. The parties, which campaign for online freedoms, lost two seats across Europe but picked one up and almost won another.
As a result of the last European Parliament elections, in 2009, the Pirate Party of Sweden picked up two seats, the first time such a party had been elected to office. That success was followed in later years by members of the respective Pirate Parties being elected to a regional legislature in Germany and the national parliament in Iceland.
The European Parliament elections are among the most favorable to niche parties as they use proportional representation. Some countries conduct a nationwide vote while others break it down into large regions. While the precise thresholds vary between countries and regions, a party can often win a seat by getting somewhere between five and ten percent of the votes.
In 2009, the Swedish Pirate Party won one seat after getting 7.1 percent of the votes. (The second seat came in 2011 when Sweden was granted extra seats in the European Parliament and distributed them based on the 2009 results.) This time round it scored only 2.2 percent, losing both seats.
Despite getting an even lower percentage, just 1.45 percent, the German Pirate Party did pick up a seat this time. That would never have previously won a seat, but earlier this year a German court threw out rules establishing a minimum threshold. This greatly increased the number of parties winning a seat and in fact as little as 0.6 percent would have been sufficient.
Contrastingly, in the Czech Republic, the Pirate Party’s 4.78 percent was just short of winning a seat. The party scored the most votes among those who missed out.
Across other countries, Pirate Parties generally did quite poorly and were often clumped in with “Others” in vote summaries. The Luxembourg party did score 4.3 percent, but this was nowhere close to success to enough as the country only has six seats to allocate. One positive for the party was that its vote was enough to qualify for funding for future campaigns.
The apparent decline of Pirate Parties across the continent as a whole may well be linked to a rise in votes for more extremist/radical parties (on both the left and right of politics) opposed to European integration, something that may have eaten into the traditional “protest votes” that have previously fuelled niche and special interest parties.