Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pirates Victorious

So it was all over the news. A bunch of upstart 20-somethings, to quote one article managed to convince almost 9% of the Berlin electorate to support the aims of the Pirate Party of Germany. The New York Times attempted to portray the new parliamentarians as looking more like the Lost Boys from Peter Pan then proper politicians. It always intrigues me when the Mainstream try to figure things out which has to do with the Internet and the new world that's evolving out there.

Some are wondering whether or not this is a shift or a blip, something to do with the German Electoral system, which is proportional representation and all you need is to get at least 5% of the voters and you're in.

The Guardian opined:
The big questions are: is the Pirates' electoral success a culturally specific blip, or a pointer to longer-term political change? Have we reached the point where the internet is having a measurable effect not just on political discourse, but also on what happens in polling booths? And could it happen here?

The answer partly depends on which electoral system we're talking about. Germany has a strictly proportional system: once a party receives more than 5% of the vote it becomes eligible not just to hold parliamentary seats, but also to receive state financial support. So vocal minority parties that can persuade more than 5% of the electorate to turn out can expect to have a political impact. That's why green parties have done relatively better in Germany and Ireland than they have in other jurisdictions. (The last – discredited – Irish government, for example, was sustained in power by an alliance between Fianna Fáil and the tiny Green party.)

Of course that article was more to do with the first past the post system that is the norm in parliaments which follow the Westminster Model. Still, its something to consider. As I read the articles, I couldn't wonder if the same was not said when the first Green Party members took their seats. You know, a crank one policy party that is more of an protest vote rather then anything serious. Now look at the Greens, they even got an MP here in Canada. It took work but you know what, the party is no longer fringe.

That's it really. If you get a voice in Parliament or the local legislature you now have something to work with, no longer are you outside looking in, but part of the fabric.

Some may think, still, the Pirates are jokes, simply a group of people who like to download music illegally. Not anymore, there is this quote from the New York Times:
They are absolutely not a joke party,” said Christoph Bieber, a professor of political science at the University of Duisburg-Essen. While there was certainly an element of protest in the unexpectedly large share of the votes the Pirates won, they were filling a real need for voters outside the political mainstream who felt unrepresented. “In the Internet, they have really found an underexploited theme that the other political parties are not dealing with,” Mr. Bieber said.

No longer a joke. I have to believe this is the possible springboard for other Pirates to look at and consider. The Internet has become a very powerful tool, the place where much of our lives are now centering and something that is being totally missed.

Der Speigel had a fascinating look at the election results. Part of the story had to do with the way other parties and groups dismissed the Party, even the Greens took shots but none of this stopped over 120,000 people from casting their ballots.
The criticism may actually have helped drive young voters to the Pirate Party. Indeed, other parties may have overlooked the fact that the Pirate Party addressed the concerns and interests of a relevant group of voters. The party focuses not only on classic themes like direct democracy, transparency and online data protection, but also on demands that would be unthinkable to traditional politicians. The party wants to see the introduction of an unconditional basic income, for example, and the legalization of soft drugs. Both positions sit well in alternative Berlin districts such as Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain.

The Pirates also have something other parties have long since lost -- credibility, authenticity and freshness.

There is now a new sheriff on the alternative voting horizon and it sails under the skull and crossbones.