The German Pirate Party has taken seats in the fourth consecutive regional election, this time in North Rhine-Westphalia, where it received 7.5% of the vote, which will likely translate to 18 seats. These state-level elections are being viewed in part as a referendum on austerity and other Merkel doctrines, and there's a growing tide of disgust with business-as-usual across Europe. The Pirates are doing a good job of presenting themselves as a real alternative, albeit one with a specialized agenda. The trick will be for the Pirates to articulate the equation that all copyright policy ends up being Internet policy, and all Internet policy ends up being policy for everything, since everything we do involves the Internet. So far, many people are taking that idea to heart. Party founder Rick Falkvinge provides some analysis of the German PP phenomenon:
The first reason is that the German Piratenpartei was long-term from the get-go. Where most pirate parties are started like any internet project – "we're going to change the world come next weekend" – the Germans knew they would be around for a long time, and invested early in the organizational foundation for that.
The second reason is timing and ripples on the water. When the Swedish Piratpartiet had its breakthrough in the European Parliament, and was in media all over the world, the German Piratenpartei was able to exploit that momentum when a local minister named Ursula wanted to create a net censorship to fight CP. T-shirts with the name "Zensursula" were common, zensur being German for censorship. The goverment did not win the narrative on that one, and the idea of censorship was abandoned while the Piratenpartei raked in new members. I'd say that this was the breakthrough in activist critical mass.
The third reason is Germany's federal party support. Having won 1% in the European elections and 2% in the federal elections in 2009 entitled the Piratenpartei to considerable governmental funding, which is paid out to all parties that beat the half-percent mark in elections. This has allowed the Piratenpartei to buy themselves the appearance of an established party out in the streets – their posters and banners are everywhere on paid billboards, as well as on streetlights and more activist-associated locations. But all of it looks professional, yet with a new message. It looks electable, which is key.