In the European Pirate Parties’ race for the first national parliament seat, an unexpected contender has appeared as a possible winner: the Netherlands. The Dutch Piratenpartij just had its first poll showing it would get a parliamentary seat in the September elections.
The Pirate Parties are gaining seats on more levels and in more countries all the time. While it is arguably still a nascent movement, the parties are still quite respectably represented. It started with two seats in the European Parliament from Sweden in 2009, then a number of local seats until the big bang in Berlin in the fall of 2011, after which the German Piratenpartei has had a string of solid successes at beating Germany’s five-percent threshold for parliamentary entry, gaining seats in state-level parliaments there.
There are pirates on local city councils in Austria, Czech Republic, Switzerland, and Spain.
The movement has also had its first government seat – Slim Amamou, Secretary of State for Sports and Youth in Tunisia. Noteworthily, this was in Northern Africa, and not in Europe.
Many Pirate Parties are polling at one-half to two per cent. This may seem insignificant, but getting to this level is immensely harder than getting from two to five per cent of the vote.
An interesting situation has appeared in the Netherlands – the Dutch go to the elections on September 12 of this year. Now, the Dutch Piratenpartij doesn’t have as impressive numbers as its German counterpart, but it is assisted by a particular feature of the Dutch political system: there is no threshold for entry to parliament. If you earn your seat, there’s no further cutoff.
The Piratenpartij needs 0.66% for one seat, and Dutch media has been reporting that the Pirate Party is one of three parties practically straddling that threshold – and just last weekend, we got a poll where the Dutch Pirate Party would have gotten a seat, were the elections held today.
However, we probably won’t see a repeat of the Berlin scenario, where the Pirate Party was the newcomer of the year and media’s darling in all the spotlights. That caused the German Piratenpartei to gain more visibility week by week, climbing from the 4.5% one month before the election – below the threshold – to the election result of 8.9% in that month, much thanks to the newcomer factor. The Dutch, due to their lack of parliamentary threshold, are used to newcomers – so it’s not mediaworthy in the same way that it looks like a newcomer might make it to Parliament. The Dutch Pirate Party will have to defend its seat in that poll through hard work and hard work alone.
That said, it’s a watershed event that the Dutch Piratenpartij has a seat in a poll.
By the way, I said European Pirate Parties at the start of this article. That’s not entirely accurate, of course. There are Pirate Parties pretty much worldwide, even if the original parliamentary hack depends on running in proportional-representation elections typical in Europe. That constraint would limit the original concept to Europe, Asia, South America, and the African democracies – mostly, but not quite. Even though Canada, the U.S., and other former British/French colonies adopted the British/French non-proportional system, there are some spots which do vote proportional.
An exciting contender worth mentioning is the Australian Pirate Party, which has proportional elections in October in the Australian Capital Territory, and which is now getting noticed. With hard work, I’d say they have a fair shot at getting the first national parliamentary seat in October, if the Dutch should stumble on the finish line in their September elections.