The Pirateparty is a hot political issue in Germany and Sweden for some time now. This week in the North Rhine-Westphalia elections the pirate party managed to secure 8% of the vote. For such a new party to take such a big bite out of the Greens and die Linke is really a great achievement. This victory was cause for celebration for the Dutch chapter of the Pirateparty. And with the Netherlands having national elections in September and campaigning having started, its a great boost in confidence. But will the Piratenpartij (Dutch Pirate Party) be able to live up to the succes of their German siblings?
The Pirate Party in North Rhine-Westphalia managed to inspire the voters of die Linke and the Greens to vote for a modern form of e-democracy. Their main keyword is transparency. They want to open up government to everyone. Every constituent should be heard and can be heard on every single issue with e-democracy. Where media and traditional parties have labeled them as a party which has no idea about how government functions, the German pirate party hasn’t retorted by denying that. They simply opposed it by their vision of how government should function in their eyes, and how everyone should be able to understand it. An idea that they managed to sell in Berlin and in North Rhine-Westphalia. The Greens and die linke have felt this severly since they have lost the position of being a party outside of the current political system.
Will the Piratenpartij be able to continue this trend? Where will the pirate party search for its key voters?
The Dutch Socialist Party is currently the largest party in the polls. And allthough they might not remain that big until September, chances are that the SP, who still has the image of being a party outside the establishment, will have a major electoral victory this fall. It will be very hard to get votes away from a party which is as radical as the SP.
Groenlinks (the green party) however is in the same vurnerable spot that the Green party was in North Rhine-Westphalia. The kunduz-agreement suddenly put them on the map as a party who wants to be part of the ruling establishment and is willing to compromise many of its ideals for that. With Groenlinks leaning to the establishment and the modern progressive alternative that the Piratenpartij could be there is a major source of votes under the idealists of Groenlinks.
The same goes for D66, a party that until two decades ago, was a strong proponent of democratic reform, lacked the ability to change the establishment when it got the chance. While they showed that they were a party that understands government, they dropped the ball on actually getting their democratic renewal done.
However the liberal party, VVD, has taken a lot of losses among young voters. Their last conservative cabinet which cooperated with the extreme right PVV and the ultraconservative SGP has made many young voters shy away from the traditionaly liberal party. With their conservative policy on privacy and internet freedom, the VVD has made itself an caricature of their own liberal ideals among youngsters. Many issues that traditionally belonged to young voters have been torn down by the last cabinet. The drug laws came under pressure, anti download laws were introduced and privacy is neglected. Young voters are easily tempted to vote for the Piratenpartij which stands very firmly on these issues. But it’s not just young voters that feel abandoned by the VVD.
The loss of liberal values has not gone unnoticed in the rest of the VVD. It has been the feeding ground for D66. The reluctance of the VVD to stand up against christian parties on liberal core values like privacy and self-determination, has damaged the image of the party severly. If the Dutch Pirate Party is able to show they are serious like they did in North Rhine-Westphalia, it could have a very hurtfull effect on the VVD.
The PvdA has just decided to go back to their core values and translate them to current times, and is looking to dust of the democratic socialism they once started out from. Where the PvdA is one of the core establishment parties that couldnt find their way in opposing the last cabinet. Its not clear yet which direction the PvdA will choose. If they go back to their traditional values, the Piratenpartij stands a good chance on social policy to compete with that.
The Christenunie, CDA and SGP have little to fear from the Pirateparty in losing constituents. With their christian background and voter support, they simply don’t have a modern enough point of view on politics to be threathened by the Piratenparij’s, almost technocratic, approach to politics.
To benefit from the current state of the Dutch parliament, the Piratenpartij will have to show that they are a serious alternative to the current parties. For this they need to use the creative resources they have to present their image as a strong tech-savvy party that uses new technology to update democracy and government to this new time we live in. This would be a strong philosophical basis of the party program. They will have to present it professionally to the voter. This does not mean the Piratenpartij has to pretend to have all the answers. A realistic voter knows that a political figure is still a human being who hasn’t got all the answers ready.
Connecting to the voter isn’t about populism. Many politicians make this dumb mistake. People don’t want a politician with all the answers, they want to be heard. Connecting to the voter is all about actually connecting to the voter. With the internet the Piratenpartij has the best tool for that in their arsenal. If they utilize it well enough there is more then just one seat to be had.