The Pirate Party of Germany (Piratenpartei) achieved breakthrough success capturing the protest vote last autumn - but its appeal may be starting to wane.
The anti-copyright party won 8.9 per cent of the Berlin vote and has been attempting to build a national party organisation. However, Der Spiegel reports that "almost half of the party's members have yet to pay their annual membership fee."
The paper suggests that in-fighting and an absence of policy, tactics or strategy are hurting the German branch of the international movement. Party members are almost exclusively male, according to a recent Graun report.
Der Spiegel also makes the rather startling claim that the German Pirate Party doesn't 'stand' for anything. Quite why this makes the Pirates unique is a puzzle; a characteristic of modern parties is that they don't 'stand' for anything either, and this has been a factor in fuelling support for parties that run against the political mainstream - like the Pirates.
If the major parties offered voters a real choice, then making a protest vote against the system would not be so attractive. As I wrote two years ago, the major parties offer the prospective member little except the prospect of the exercise of power itself.
Yet aside from platitudes about 'internet freedom' - where that freedom is gained at someone else's expense - and a common belief in direct democracy and the importance of privacy, the accusation has some truth. The Pirates readily admit to being an umbrella for 'marginal groups' ... including groups which may be marginal for a reason.
For example, the father of the Pirate Party movement – Dick Augustsson (he prefers to use the stage name 'Rick Falkvinge' - aka 'Hawk Wing') has said he believes the "possession" of child pornography should be legalised (translated from an interview in Swedish). Falkvinge stepped down as leader of the international movement in 2011.
The next Bundestag elections are in September 2013, and the Pirates may yet achieve the 5 per cent of the popular vote required to gain a seat. ®