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Germany: Pirate Party falls from grace

Germany’s once popular Pirate Party, one of Europe’s leading internet freedom political organizations, has fallen out of favor with voters.
Pirate party 10 25 2012Enlarge
Representatives of the German Pirate Party from the states in which the party won seats in regional elections pose for a group photo in the Berlin Parliament (Abgeordnetenhaus) building on June 9, 2012 in Berlin, Germany. The Pirates, a newcomer on the German political scene, are capitalizing on discontent with Germany's established parties and have already won major seats in four state parliaments, but incidents of infighting and disagreements are affecting unity within the party. (Adam Berry/AFP/Getty Images)

Germany’s once popular Pirate Party, one of Europe’s leading internet freedom political organizations, has fallen out of favor with voters, according to Der Spiegel.

The Pirate Party’s political philosophy was born in Sweden out of the controversy surrounding The Pirate Bay, a file-sharing site that has played a game of cat and mouse with authorities since 2006. More recently, the party's philosophy has since taken root worldwide. It's political ideology has perhaps found the greatest success in Germany.

However, once a rising star of German politics, the party has failed to secure seats in federal parliament. A series of scandals has tarnished members of the Pirate Party and derailed the success it had enjoyed in 2011 during state parliamentary elections.

For many, the Pirate Party has become an organization full of shameless self-promoters and playboys.

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“The newcomers are gaining a reputation as a party of self-promoters, whose members most often garner big headlines for bizarre behavior—for example, one representative in North Rhine-Westphalia uses Twitter to describe her one-night stands and broken condoms,” Der Spiegel reported.

Recently, Pirate Party Political Director Johannes Ponader made a spectacle of himself during a nationally televised talk show appearance where he had his feet massaged and embraced the show’s host while explaining the details of his polyamorous lifestyle. Opponents and voters have also criticized Ponader for funding a decadent lifestyle with state funds, living off of unemployment and party donations.

"I would advise Johannes Ponader to try holding a job," party leader Bernd Schlömer complained to Der Spiegel.

Earlier this year, German artists, musicians and intellectuals voiced displeasure with the country’s Pirate Party, arguing that the fledging political group did not represent their interests.

“[The Pirate Party] "is the first left-wing party to have a considerable number of intellectuals not for, but against it," Der Spiegel noted in a piece released last April.

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Also contributing to their fall from grace could be quarrels among the party leadership. Schlömer’s predecessor and current second in command has announced that he will not be running for office again under the Pirate Party.

"Our biggest problem is that, aside from personal scandals, we can't seem to manage to communicate anything," he said.

Without a strong European power base, the Pirate political ideology faces challenges in bringing about policy changes in Europe and North America, where other left-wing political organizations have been less receptive to the Swedish-born pirate ethos.

Indeed, even the party’s core members lack confidence in its chances for success.

"Our hands are tied," lamented party member Michael Neyses. "But if we want to succeed here, we have to play the game to a certain degree."

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