The Pirate Party has won 15 seats in a German regional election, raising the possibility that it could go on to earn national representation. The party campaigns for online freedoms and privacy and against copyright restrictions.
Germany’s branch of the party received 129,795 votes in elections to the Berlinstate parliament. That was 8.9 percent of the total, which appears to be the highest proportion any Pirate Party has received in an election.
Only five percent of the vote is needed to guarantee a party seats under the system used in Berlin, which fills some seats with local races and the rest from a national list using proportional representation. The Guardian reports that once the Pirate Party began beating this number in opinion polls, its support rose rapidly, with voters believing the party was no longer a wasted vote. The Pirates may also have benefited from a dramatic collapse in support for the Free Democratic Party, which is the junior party in the coalition making up Germany’s national government.
In some ways it’s almost fortunate the Pirate Party didn’t receive any more votes. Had it done so it would have won additional seats but been unable to claim them as it only put 15 candidates forward for the list system. In fact the party only has around a thousand registered members in the Berlinstate.
Previously the most high-profile Pirate Party success was in the 2009 elections to the European Parliament when it picked up two seats in Sweden with 7.1 percent of the national vote. The German party received 0.9 percent in its country, which was nowhere close to winning a seat but did mean it qualified for national funding.
What happens next may depend on the party’s performance in office, but not inconceivable it will now have the credibility to rack up enough votes to win seats in the next German national election in 2013. However, the party didn’t do as well in other state elections as in Berlin, so it may need to spread its appeal more widely to succeed.