German Election: Embattled Pirates Looking for Rapid Reboot

May 15th, 2013

Published on Spiegel Online International/Blog, by Charles Hawley, May 13, 2013.

“We will definitely be voted into federal parliament. I can do nothing to change that.” Thus spoke Johannes Ponader, a top member of Germany’s Pirate Party one year ago. It turns out, he may have been mistaken. In the last 12 months, the party has seen its support plummet — to below the 5 percent necessary for seats in the Bundestag. And this weekend, the Pirates tried to finally turn their ship around.  

Item No. 1 on the list of reforms was getting rid of Ponader himself. The Pirate equivalent of general secretary, he made headlines last year with his insouciant appearances on nationally televised talk shows, on one occasion infamously clad in open-toed sandals and a grungy looking cardigan while sending tweets from his smart phone on live TV … //

… Digital Decisions?

Still, a Pirate Party congress would not be complete without a substantial disagreement of some kind. Interestingly, the spat of note this weekend was over the degree to which the party wants to make its decisions online. For months, the Pirates have been debating the merits of instituting a kind of permanent digital convention allowing for the party to establish binding positions on issues on a rolling basis — without the need for actual conventions.

Currently, the party’s “liquid democracy” program allows for all manner of political discussion to take place online. Majorities can be assembled and motions made. But binding decisions have to be made offline. It is an element of traditional politicking that many in the party would like to do without.

But not all. The back-and-forth on the issue was so intense over the weekend that seven people at the congress collapsed from the strain, according to senior Pirate Florian Bokor. On Saturday night, Bokor simply ended the debate at 9:30 p.m. noting that “the mood is, to say the least, in the shitter.”

For most Pirates present this weekend, it didn’t improve. The party was unable to achieve the two-thirds majority needed to establish the digital decision-making system that most long for, falling short by a mere 23 votes out of the almost 1,000 members present. With 64 percent in favor of online decision-making, frustrated party members were not hard to find on Sunday.

But the party may be in the process of turning the corner nonetheless. A new survey published on Sunday in the tabloid Bild indicates that 4 percent of the German electorate is currently willing to support the Pirates — below the all-important 5 percent hurdle for federal representation, but higher than a month ago.
(full text).


Up a Creek, Pirate Party Looks for a Paddle, on Spiegel Online International, by Charles Hawley, March 7, 2013;

Liquid Democrazy: Pirate Party Sinks amid Chaos and Bickering, on Spiegel Online International, by SPIEGEL Staff, February 21, 2013 (Photo Strecke);

Children learn best in age-group classes with qualified whole-class teaching, on Current Concerns, by Heidi Sonderegger, May 6, 2013: Two experienced teachers exchange ideas over lunch in the staff room;

US approves new pesticides linked to mass bee deaths as EU enacts ban, on Russia Today RT, May 11, 2013 (with links to related articles);

Cartoons on Russia Today RT.

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