- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating is associate editor at Foreign Policy and the editor of the Passport blog. He has worked as a researcher, editorial assistant, and deputy Web editor since joining the FP staff in 2007. In addition to being featured in Foreign Policy, his writing has been published by the Washington Post, Newsweek International, Radio Prague, the Center for Defense Information, and Romania's Adevarul newspaper. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN International, C-Span, ABC News, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC radio, and others. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he studied comparative politics at Oberlin College.
Understandably, the very scary success of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party in Greece’s parliamentary eleciton has gotten more attention, but local elections in Germany also showed a growing presence for another once-fringe political movement:
The young Pirate party appeared to emerge as the biggest winners in Schleswig-Holstein with 8 percent of the vote, according to the exit poll. This would be more than enough votes to usher the young party into its third state regional legislature in as many elections, after wins of 8.9 percent in Berlin and of 7.4 percent in Saarland.
With their emphasis on transparency and Internet issues, the Pirates continued to draw disgruntled voters from all of the traditional parties, the exit polls showed, making Schleswig-Holstein, home to about 2.8 million people, the largest state where they are now represented at the regional level.
Nicolas Kulish looked at the German Pirates’ emergence as a political force to be reckoned with in Sunday’s New York Times:
A recent survey found that nearly one in three Germans would in principle be willing to vote for the Pirates; they even nosed ahead of the Green Party in several opinion surveys as Germany’s third most popular party. The Greens were once the insurgent activists on the political scene. Now founding members from the ’68 generation have started collecting their pensions. A Green campaign poster with a cursor arrow pointing at a Facebook thumbs-up icon carried a whiff of desperation to keep up with the Pirates.
Though they were once considered something of an eccentric oddity on the political scene, the anti-Pirate backlash in Germay seems to be growing in instensity. One member of parliament recently noted that “the rise of the Pirate Party is as fast as that of the N.S.D.A.P.” — the Nazi Party — “between 1928 and 1933.”
The Nazi comparison seems a bit extreme, though a few members have been revealed to have far-right sympathy. But a number of artists and leftists — seemingly the party’s core constituency — may be turning on them as well, according to Der Spiegel.
Take the 82-year-old poet and former Marxist Magnus Enzensberger:
"Political? No, politically there’s nothing there," Enzensberger growled over the telephone. "And certainly nothing revolutionary. It’s actually surprisingly bourgeois. Like our grandparents, who were happy when they could get something for free."
The Pirates have proven they can make a showing in an election. The next test is if they can survive the scrutiny and criticism a semi-mainstream party inevitably receives.