Pirates Bring Buccaneering Spirit to Berlin’s Parliament

By David Knight |

Arr – the Skull and Bones was flying over Berlin on Sunday after the Pirate Party scored a surprise success in the German capital’s local election. It claimed 8.9 percent of the vote, well above the 5 percent threshold which allows parties to take seats in the city-state’s government. Seemingly, a large number of voters in Berlin wanted to force the existing political establishment to walk the plank.

But bad pirate-related puns aside, what does this result mean for Berlin, and in particular its buzzing tech scene? Described by Spiegel International as “hip, unconventional, refreshingly amateurish and anti-establishment” and by the Berliner Zeitung as “the children of Marx and Microsoft”, the Pirates are reaping in the benefits of distancing themselves from the staid, colourless political scene which dominates in Germany. Even parties which are traditionally more alternative like the Greens are now firmly a part of the establishment. The Pirate Party looked for support amongst the generation of young people who look first and foremost towards the Internet, and they found it in spades.

That, in itself, can only be a good thing for the thriving tech scene in Berlin. Leaving aside the fact that their election manifesto included measures such as free wireless across the German capital as well as free public transport – both of which would come in fairly handy for entrepreneurs struggling to get started – their inclusion in the local government of one of Europe’s most important capitals (arguably, with the ongoing euro crisis, the most important at the moment) will allow those in the tech scene to have more of a voice than, perhaps, they had before.

And it’s happened at the right time as well – the startup scene in Berlin has flourished in recent months, and the attention of technology experts across the world is now focused on the city. So what better than for a young, fresh political party, one born of the Internet age, to help establish Berlin as the centre of European creativity and business in tech?

It could even see benefits for the rest of Germany – the Pirate Party is hoping its spectacular success in Berlin will translate into seats in the national parliament, the Bundestag, in next year’s general election.

Simon Weiß, one of Berlin’s new state parliament representatives. Picture courtesy of the Pirate Party.

Simon Weiß, a newly elected member of the Berlin state parliament, told Silicon Allee that the Pirate Party was looking to get things done for the tech scene: “Berlin’s creative economy, which includes many technology startups, is a big part of what makes this city special and attractive beyond its borders. We want to support this economy, in particular by providing a stable infrastructure of financial grants. However, it remains to be seen to what degree our presence in parliament will let us get things done in this respect or lead other political actors to pay more attention to issues such as these.”

Perhaps, then, no one in Berlin should be getting too excited about the Pirates just yet. After all, they are merely a minority party in the state government – the SPD remain the biggest party, followed by the CDU, the Greens and the LeftParty – and an utterly inexperienced one at that. What can they really do for those working and living in the tech scene? After all, things are pretty good in Berlin for startups; that’s why everybody is flocking here in the first place.

But in the long run, fresh ideas and having lawmakers who understand technology and the Internet better than other politicians can only be a good thing for Berlin and Germany. And as Pirate Party leader Andreas Baum, acclaimed as Berlin’s new political star by BILD, told the German tabloid: “We want to shake up politics, to bring a breath of fresh air into the state parliament. With this election results, we have forced the other parties to think – this is already the beginning.”