When elections were held for the Berlin parliament on Sunday, the established parties generally showed relatively small gains or losses of a couple of percentage points compared to five years ago. The most significant gain was registered by the Green Party, which jumped by over four points to take 18% of the vote and are likely to be included in the next governing coalition. The worst loss was suffered by the pro-business Free Democrats, who dropped to an abysmal 2%.

But by far the greatest surprise was the strong showing by the upstart Pirate Party -- described by an English-language German news site as "a motley outfit advocating civil liberties, as well as privacy and technology issues" -- which took 8.5% of the vote, guaranteeing it representation in the state legislature.

"We'll see what happens in parliament when the citizens see a different type of politics," commented Andreas Baum, head of the party's Berlin chapter.

According to Deutsche Welle, "The Pirate Party in German was established five years ago and has since grown to 13,000 members nation-wide. ... Part of what sets the Pirate Party apart is their familiarity to the online world, which they say is lacking among the established parties. This is one reason in particular why the Pirate Party is especially popular among younger voters."

In addition to questions of intellectual property and online privacy, the Pirate Party is concerned with the question of how citizens can have a more effective voice in their government. "[It should be] different than it has been, and supported by new tools in the Internet," Baum told Deutsche Welle. Another top party official, Christoph Lauer, agrees that young people who are accustomed to the Internet often experience a lack of responsiveness when dealing with government and find ordinary politics unsatisfactory.

The Guardian further explains the Pirate Party's unexpected success by noting, "Their irreverent campaign captured the imagination of young voters as the party expanded its platform from an original focus on filesharing, censorship and data protection, to include social issues and citizens' rights. The party, which was founded in 2006, was 'in tune with the Berlin vibe with their relaxed campaign', Holger Liljeberg of the Info polling institute, told Reuters. 'They focus a lot on liberalism, freedom and self-determination.'"

Image by Piratpartiet (http://www.piratpartiet.se/) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.