German Pirates Party struggles to define policy and stay afloat

Sun Nov 25, 2012 10:58am EST
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By Sarah Marsh and Hans-Edzard Busemann

BOCHUM, Germany (Reuters) - Germany's fast-sinking Pirates Party struggled to overcome infighting at a congress that ended on Sunday and chart a course for next year's federal elections that may see it cast into political oblivion as swiftly as it arrived.

Support for the Pirates, who surprisingly won seats in four states over the past year, has shrunk to around a quarter of its peak. Their demise could help the centre left recover enough votes to oust conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The party surged to 13 percent support in April but is now under 5 percent, the threshold needed for it to enter parliament, after it has failed to define policy goals and board have members quarreled in public.

Nearly 2,000 Pirates delegates gathered in the western industrial city of Bochum at the weekend to try to put their differences behind them and flesh out their thin party program but agreed just a handful of the some 700 proposals.

"We're still a young party, everything is up in the air," said party member Rolf Schuemer, a 58-year-old teacher and cabaret artist, wearing the Pirates' trademark color orange.

Indeed, Schuemer said it remained to be seen whether they could ever agree policies beyond their original aims of more direct democracy, civil rights, and Internet freedom.

The Pirates initially attracted voters from across the political spectrum who were frustrated with traditional politics and their inability to influence it, albeit mainly from the left, as well as many who previously did not vote at all.

But many attracted to the Pirates have since turned away.   Continued...

A delegate installs a sign during a party meeting of the Pirate Party (Piraten Partei) in Bochum November 24, 2012. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender