As Berlin election results came in on Sunday evening, sweaty members of the Pirate Party danced arm in arm beneath a disco ball at popular club in the city’s Kreuzberg district. The smell of marijuana spread through the informal party, where guests made their own sandwiches and drank bottled beer.
“I can’t believe it,” said newly elected parliamentarian Christopher Lauer as he fell onto a sofa, sending a message of thanks out via his Twitter account for the 8.9 percent of voter support. “It is breathtaking, a surreal feeling, because there is nothing that compares to this.”
Standing before the television screen, the leader of the Pirate Party, Sebastian Nerz, called the historic moment “cool.”
“It’s the first time since the 1980s that a new political power has come onto the stage,” he said.
Indeed, the support for the party — founded in 2006 on a civil liberties platform that focused on Internet freedoms — was sensational. Not only will the Pirate Party enter a regional government for the first time, but its results far surpassed the five percent hurdle needed for parliamentary representation. The success was so unexpected that the party had only put 15 candidates on its list of nominations. Had their support been just a little higher, some of their seats would have remained empty because post-election nominations of candidates isn’t allowed.
It’s an amateur mistake, but the young party is honest about their growing pains. “Of course we are amateurs,” said lead candidate Andreas Baum. “It would be senseless to deny it.” It doesn’t seem to matter that his press representative doesn’t know her mobile phone number and has no business cards yet. “We are visionary, but practical,” he adds.
But it was precisely this approach that proved successful for the Pirate Party. Their humorous campaign posters, with slogans like “Privatize religion,” were the work of party members, not an advertising company. All of the city-state’s some 1,000 members were encouraged to take part.
On Saturday 1,250 members gathered in the city of Offenbach they face the challenges of political success.
“We have left behind an eventful and tough period, and we face an even more difficult one,” Nerz told the assembled pirates at the opening of the conference.
But they need to quit bickering on Twitter and Facebook, he said.
“The fact that 1,200 people have come together here alone shows that we have an active and lively discussion culture,” he told the DPA news agency.
But, please, not quite so much openness.