Pro-Internet freedom Pirates Party takes 8.9 percent in Berlin elections

Laura Rozen

Sporting the hackers' uniform of sweatshirt-hoodies, T-shirts and jeans, members of Germany's pro-Internet freedom Pirates Party were stunned to win 8.9 percent of the votes in Berlin city-state elections on Sunday. Under Germany's parliamentary system, the victory vaulted all 15 Pirates Party candidates into the city's government.

"These men in their 20s and 30s, who turned up at the imposing former Prussian state parliament building, some wearing hooded sweatshirts, and one a T-shirt of the comic book hero Captain America, were no longer merely madcap campaigners and gadflies," the New York Times' Nicholas Kulish reported from Berlin. "They had become the people's elected representatives."

The Pirates Party platform has traditionally focused on greater Internet transparency while battling online censorship. Recently, however, party leaders have broadened their agenda to promote "the Internet as a tool to empower the electorate,"  Kulish wrote.

"Today's cadre of politicians is missing out on asking some very relevant questions about the future," Rick Falkvinge, who founded the party in Sweden in 2006, told Kulish Sunday as party members celebrated at a Kreuzberg nightclub. "You can stand up, stand tall and write the laws yourself."

The Berlin vote spelled more bad news for German Premier Angela Merkel, who has slumped in the polls as Germans have chafed over plans bail out debt-ridden Euro-zone countries such as Greece and Portugal. Merkel's allied coalition party, the Free Democrats, netted less than 2 percent of the vote, while the liberal Green Party won 18 percent--a 5 percent improvement over its showing in the 2006 election.