There are several reasons for the unexpected electoral success of the Pirate Party in Sundays election to the Abgeordnetenhaus in Berlin.
At first, the city of Berlin is the center of the newly developing policy area of “internet politics” or “digital civil rights”. Many of the relevant political actors in this increasingly public debate are based in Berlin, i.e. the Parliamentary Commission on “Internet and Digital Society”, the recently formed lobbying/activist group “Digitale Gesellschaft” (Digital Society) or the famous Chaos Computer Club. Although “digital civil rights” usually is not a relevant issue for regional elections, it played a significant role during the election campaign because of its visibility in the Berlin.
Secondly, the Pirate Party managed to be recognized as an alternative to the political establishment in Berlin. Their focus on issues related to new technologies as well as their will to experiment with tools like blogs, social networks, or voice-chat for internal discussions, helped to create a fresh and modern image. In addition to that, the Pirates emphasized their favor of grassroots democracy and resisted (at least until now) the development of inner-party-elites. They gather a variety of young, formerly not politically active citizens, and display this ability by nominating a set of young (yet mostly male) candidates. With personal or financial resources anything but close to their competitors, the “Pirates” engaged in a “Do-it-Yourself”-Campaign and developed creative and cost-sensitive strategies for gaining attention, online and on the streets.
A third reason for the extraordinary electoral strength of a very young party organization (the German Pirate Party was founded in 2006, reached its current state of membership of roughly 12.000 only by 2009) might be the downfall the liberal democrats (FDP) under Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Philipp Rösler, his successor as party president. While the FDP dropped in the polls under the margin of 5% (amount of votes needed to claim seats in the parliament), the Pirate Party rose as a “viable” alternative for undecided or discontent voters. To protest against the city´s party establishment (see above), voters turned their heads to the Pirate Party instead of the FDP, recognizing the new Party as a possible choice on the left side of the political spectrum.