The World from Berlin 'The Laptop-and-Latte Generation Has Found Its Party'

The German Pirate Party won 8.9 percent in the Berlin election to gain its first-ever seats in a state parliament. It could become a political force at the national level, say observers, arguing that the party represents a generation of Internet users who have been ignored by the web-phobic mainstream parties.

Newcomers: Newly elected members of the Berlin regional assembly from the Pirate Party pose for a group photo in the city parliament on Monday.

Newcomers: Newly elected members of the Berlin regional assembly from the Pirate Party pose for a group photo in the city parliament on Monday.

The Pirate Party stunned Germany's political establishment -- and itself -- on Sunday by coming from nowhere to win 8.9 percent of the vote in the Berlin regional election.

It now plans to win seats in the national parliament in the 2013 general election. And it may well achieve that -- the party embodies a fresh new political force that represents a whole generation of Web users, say observers.

The buccaneers appeal to people who have grown up with the Internet and for whom the mainstream parties have little to offer. Many are yearning for a new, more approachable, honest style of politics that embraces the zeitgeist of the Internet. They see the Web as a positive force in their lives, whereas the suit-clad mainstream politicians, in their opinion, view it as a threat that needs to be monitored and controlled.

On Tuesday, German media commentators argue that the Greens and the far-left Left Party had their chance to attract the Web generation -- and blew it. The Pirates are as hip, unconventional, refreshingly amateurish and anti-establishment as the Greens were 30 years ago. And like the Greens, they may well be here to stay.

The left-leaning Berliner Zeitung writes:

"One could ask oneself: What kind of frivolous city hands 9 percent of its votes to such beginners? Can something really be fun if it has to be taken seriously for the next five years? Yes, one should take it seriously, and the Left Party and the Greens should have done so much sooner. Even though the Internet from its very beginnings sparked romantic visions of a new, fairer world, neither the Left Party nor the Greens ever seized the political potential of the Web. Knowledge for all is power for all -- they left such slogans to obscure hackers."

"The Pirates are the children of Marx and Microsoft and are trying to emancipate themselves from both. It is the only party that has responded to the Internet with something other than mistrust or a desire to impose control. Their success stems from the fact that they have transported the euphoric social experiences many people associate with the Internet into a political program, albeit a vague one."

The business daily Financial Times Deutschland writes:

"The political newcomers could pose a much greater danger to the established parties than many a one-hit election wonder. They can offer voters something that the Greens, SPD, Left Party or (business-friendly) FDP are sorely in need of: not just Internet competency but a totally new, refreshing style of politics."

"Mainstream politicians seem to forget that 57 million Germans regularly use the Internet. Politicians' Internet-phobia doesn't chime with people who associate the Web with an expansion of their knowledge, of their circle of friends and their entertainment possibilities. It is a constant, natural part of their lives. They no longer want to let its fate be determined by a government that so evidently doesn't understand it."

"Many Internet users want freedom and justice for the Web. They're looking for an Internet-friendly party for the laptop-and-latte generation -- and have found the Pirates. The fact that the party has been able to attract many non-voters shows just how much potential has been neglected by the established parties in the past."

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

"The love of the Internet can't suffice as the only explanation for the success of the Pirates, because the Greens too are comparatively Internet-savvy. The reason is more deep-rooted. It can be found in the life experience of a generation growing up in a world where performance, economic success and adaptability count. Unlike their parents, many have to complete their studies quickly, find a job quickly, advance their careers quickly to have time to have a family."

"They live with a sense that they have been robbed of their wild years, and with a fear of falling behind the pack. Some already have, and have stopped voting. They feel out of place in a system that to them is like a computer that has stopped responding. The Pirates offer a haven for their impatience and for a yearning for freedom that many of them never enjoyed."

"The buccaneers haven't just seized Green issues like civil rights, co-determiniation and transparency. They also make the center-left Social Democrats look old-fashioned. (SPD mayor) Klaus Wowereit revealed at the IFA consumer electronics fair in Berlin that he doesn't know how to use a smart phone and doesn't need one."

Berlin center-left daily Der Tagesspiegel writes:

"We have the Pirates to thank for the nicest surprise of the election night. Because they remind us that political parties come from the people, and that self-organization can be a way for people to get together with the purpose of achieving something."

"It is totally open whether and how they will develop beyond Berlin. But it doesn't take much imagination to realize that a revolution like the digital one can have a similarly profound impact as the industrial revolution that gave rise to the liberal, conservative and labor parties."

"The aims of the Pirates are as vague as they are legitimate. Their keyword is transparency, and that is attractive because politics these days is associated with precisely the opposite."

-- David Crossland


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