What Sunk the Pirate Party?

Sweden’s Pirate Party has failed to repeat its success in last year’s European elections in this month’s poll for Sweden’s own parliament. Its vote collapsed to roughly a sixth of its total last year, prompting debate on what caused the apparent huge drop in support.

Last summer the party — which campaigns for reforms of online freedom laws and intellectual property issues — picked up 225,915 votes in elections to the European Parliament. That was 7.13% of the total, enough to pick up one seat. (Both the Swedish and European parliaments use electoral systems where parties with a big enough share of the vote can earn a seat without having to win in a specific location.)

Had the party achieved the same percentage of the vote this time round, it would have won around a dozen seats in the Swedish Parliament. In reality it achieved 38,941 votes which, with a higher turnout, worked out at 0.65% and earning no representation.

There seem to be several reasons why the campaign lost steam:

  • I don’t know if this is the case in Sweden, but in the United Kingdom at least many voters treat European Parliament elections as an opportunity to register a protest vote for a minor party but, once national legislature elections come around, pick one of the major parties that might form a government, rather than “waste” a vote. (This shouldn’t be as much a factor in Sweden where the electoral system makes it easier for smaller parties to win representation.)
  • The type of issues the Pirate Party deals with weren’t considered a big deal in the context of a national election, and none of the other parties spent much time debating them. (That’s the theory of the party itself, with leader Rick Falkvinge giving TorrentFreak the beautiful analogy: “If the wind is not in your sails, the sweat on your brow will still not steer the ship.”)
  • Some of its most high-profile policies in this campaign weren’t particularly attractive to most voters. The main example of this would be the promise to host both WikiLeaks and the PirateBay on the Swedish Parliament’s computer network, thus getting the sites immunity from prosecutors.
  • The high level of votes last year may have simply been a case of momentum building, with enough people saying they would support the party that others considered it worth doing as well. That phenomenon appears not to have been repeated this year.
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8 Responses to What Sunk the Pirate Party?

  1. I believe it's a combination of the first point, and the fact they only care about those few specific points, like the online freedom laws etc. I didn't vote for them, and I won't until they have a complete party plan (or whatever it's called in English), but once they do, I will probably vote for them.

    • You have a point David. The PP focuses on a few, specific issues, and does not address issues like if income tax should be 1% higher or lower, if unemployment benefits should be extended with 3 months more or not, etc, etc.

      What it comes do to is what means the most for you:

      Privacy, the right to secret communication, the right to not being tracked and monitored every minute, the right to not being drug-tested by the whimp of some school official, etc, etc.

      Or, a few kronor more or less in your pocket each month.

      I guess you have made up your mind: Money triumphs freedom.

      I pity you.

      • Actually, I'm only 18 and still in school, so taxes doesn't matter for me, neither does unemployment benefits. The truth is the PP is what I would vote for, but if they were to get 50% (very unlikely though) they wouldn't be able to run the country. Besides, I didn't vote for a party I liked, I voted against SD.

        • As Calavera said, PP do not need a majority in Riksdagen to see their key issues brought to fruition.

          Imagine if PP had managed to get those 5% of the popular vote and could seat 10 members in Riksdagen. And then imagine Rick Falkvinge place a call to Prime Minister Reinfeldt saying: "If you will support us on these 3-4 key issues, we will put our 10 votes firmly behind your government, no questions asked" (thus ensuring Reinfeldt a clear majority).

          And of course, Rick would make no secret of the fact that he had already called the opposition leader Mona Sahlin and offered her the same deal (and the the same majority).

          Keine hexerei, and the PP would have achieved their stated goal.

          Except for the majority part, this is what the PP have done in the EU parliament. PP decided to throw in their votes with the Greens/Leftist block in return for their support on the same few key issues.

  2. Exactly. While it makes quite a lot of sense to raise copyright and intellectual property issues at European level, you simply don't and can't run a country just with those; and the PP just didn't have any other electoral program apart from its usual points. I voted for them last year, but never even considered the option this time around.

  3. Look around Europe: Economies in disarray. Control of the spending of a big country is a fundamental question to me. Quite simply, even with pirate values I had to vote to give this Government four more years.

    Had the Pirate Party sided with either major side of Swedish politics, it would have made the choice simpler for many, but the party support could also have been be divided in half simultaneously, and you still have to be confident of 4% support for the Party to gain influence at all!

  4. PP only having a few points of interest, doesn't matter to me, and I don't think this is what made people not vote for them.

    Some of the things I think affected the results:
    – They didn't have enough media coverage this time around, something which is probably very important for a party with a young audience.
    – There were bigger issues at hand, such as bad economy and SD.
    – Compared to EU, Swedens other parties have pretty 'PP-like' stands towards privacy and other 'PP-matters'.

    @David: They wouldn't need to get 50%, just a enough seats to get a say in matters they have a stance on.
    Besides, look at MP, they started out as a 'one question party', and have evolved from that, I think PP would do the same thing.

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