Daily Israel Report

Pirate Party Success Dents Image Of German System's Stability

The surprising surge in the polls of the German Pirate party has shaken assumptions about German stability.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 4/5/2012, 3:47 AM

Sebastian Nerz (c)
Sebastian Nerz (c)
Reuters

One of the issues that always recurs in Israeli politics is the call for reforming the Israeli political system.

The issue is particularly well-suited to parties which don't have a specific position on the major issues and want to collect voters from all sides. In the appreciation that Israel's smaller parties are not about to vote themselves out of existence by abolishing proportional representation and going to British and American single-member districts, the popular choice for reformers has always been the German political system.

That system would provide some local representation and would prevent the proliferation of minor and fad parties by presenting them with the formidable hurdle of a 5% electoral threshold. The latest person to advocate the German system is the former head of the Mossad Meir Dagan.

The high support levels recorded by the German Pirate Party in Sunday's polls published by the German newspaper Bild may temper the enthusiasm for the German system. Fresh from their successes in the Berlin and Saarland state elections, the Pirate Party is now scoring 9% nationally and taking votes away from all parties. The results published by Stern magazine were even more shocking, giving the Pirate Party 12% of the vote.

The party is an offshoot of the Swedish Pirate Party that has elected two representatives to the European Parliament. Foreign Policy magazine named the party' founder Rick Falkvinge among the top 100 global thinkers.

The Pirates seek to weaken copyright laws against file-sharing (a.k.a. software piracy) and protect privacy against government intrusion. The German Pirates freely admit that they have not formed opinions on many important issues, but this is something that can be remedied and secondly, agnosticism can be a virtue.

The party's chairman, Sebastian Nerz, in an interview with ARD television remarked "And on issues like the euro crisis, I think it would have been better for the acceptance of policies if other parties also had simply said: 'Sorry, we don't have yet have a solution. We're working on it.'"

Nerz' comment is a clever insight into the loss of credibility sustained by Europe's major parties as a result of the debt crisis as Europe teetered between confident predictions that a solution had been found and the renewed outbreak of crisis.

If the polls are borne out by reality -and we have two German state elections to test the proposition coming up in May-- this will leave a single path to forming a government after the 2013 elections – a grand coalition between the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats.

Well grand coalitions and national unity governments are sometimes the ticket out of a crisis. However,. they are stopgaps for emergencies only and could cause further dissatisfaction amongst the electorate. A national unity government will disappoint the supporters of both major parties and thwart the alternation in power by the major parties that is the hallmark of a functioning democracy.