Pirate Party sets sail for French legislative vote
For the first time in its short history, France’s Pirate Party, who champion internet freedom, will present candidates in the coming parliamentary elections - even if it sees little chance of repeating the success of its German counterparts.
Inspired by the success of its German peers, the Pirate Party (PP), whose platform largely focuses on digital rights, is participating for the first time in a parliamentary poll in France. While it admits that it has virtually no chance of sending a member to the National Assembly this spring, France’s newest political force hopes at least to refresh the political debate.
Established in 2009, the 500-member strong French PP is presenting 101 candidates in the first round of the election on June 10.
The parliamentary hopefuls say they are running to fight against Internet censorship and for greater transparency in government, among other issues.
According to one of the party’s slogans, the PP is “neither on the right or the left,” but on the political “forefront”.
"Our aim is not just to denounce censorship. We want to offer realistic solutions on issues such as copyright and privacy laws on the Internet – issues politicians don’t understand,” said Maxime Rouquet, the PP’s co-president and a candidate in the Yvelines department west of Paris.
Nevertheless, the party has struggled to make a place for itself in the current campaign. France’s PP lacks the track record of its Swedish counterparts, who burst onto the political scene in 2006, or the popular support of Germany’s "piraten" movement.
The German model
Indeed, in Germany the Pirate Party has become a veritable thorn in the side of the political establishment. After winning a surprise 8.9% of votes in the September 2011 Berlin state election - enough for 15 seats in the state parliament - the Pirates have also added representatives in three other German state assemblies.
Germany’s Pirates moved ahead of Greens in terms of representatives at the national level for the first time this year, and its membership has exceeded 30,000 people, according to the party’s website.
A common European project
In France, the PP is still not taken seriously, even if new Internet anti-piracy laws passed during former French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s tenure have given them solid points to rally around.
The so-called HADOPI and LOPPSI laws destined to curb copyright infringement on the Internet and censure pornographic content on websites have drawn stiff criticism in France in recent years.
France’s Pirate Party has actively participated in efforts to strike down these laws.
However, the group’s platform has been dismissed by critics who say it revolves almost exclusively around the Internet and new technologies.
The Pirate Party in Germany, meanwhile, has widened the scope of its programme to include proposals on most social issues.
Rouquet, the French PP leader, hopes his group can move in the same direction, and believes its future success depends on developing a “common European programme” with like-minded parties across the continent.
He is also counting on voters to steer the party toward a brighter future. Borrowing once more from the German model, Rouquet has called on ordinary citizens to help shape the movement’s agenda by sharing ideas and proposals via the Web in and open-ended and participative project the group has baptized as “liquid democracy”.
"It's a way to make sure that people do not vote for a fixed platform and that they can influence policy even after an election is over,” explained Ben de Biel, one of the leaders Pirate Party in Berlin.
The French Pirates, tempered by thier experence of preparing for the coming legislatives, have already avowed that they are now setting their sights on the European parliamentary elections in 2014.