Germany's Pirate Party won four seats in the Saarland state parliament on Monday.
The new party, led in the western state by 22-year-old Jasmin Maurer, took an impressive 7.4 percent of the parliamentary vote despite only having three months to prepare for the snap elections. The ruling Christian Democratic Union had the strongest showing with 35.2 percent.
Monday's vote was all the more significant because the upstart Pirate Party expelled the Free Democratic Party, which took only 1.2 percent of the vote, from the state parliament. The center-right FDP is part of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's federal coalition in Berlin, and the Saarland vote could foreshadow the results of national elections next year unless Merkel's Christian Democratic Union finds a new partner, Der Spiegel reported.
The Pirates, who also earned more votes than the Green Party on Monday, broke into German politics last September when they won nearly 9 percent of the vote and 15 seats during the state parliament elections in Berlin.
At the time of their victory, the Pirate Party was described by Der Spiegel as a literal party, made up of kids who celebrated their win with sweaty night club dancing, marijuana and booze. They were seen as reckless -- but ambitious -- amateurs who probably had no idea what they had just gotten themselves into.
But since then, the Pirates have solidified themselves as a legitimate political entity. Although it hasn't yet achieved much in the Berlin parliament, the group's platform of technological freedom and advocacy of an open-source government is beginning to resonate. The Pirate Party is now running in state elections in Schleswig-Holstein and Nordrhein-Westphalia -- the latter home to the cities of Düsseldorf, Cologne and Bonn -- on May 9 and May 11 respectively. In both states the party is currently polling at 5 percent. Nationally, they are polling higher, at around 7 percent.
The appearance of the party's Deputy Leader Bernd Schloemer in a bike helmet at his first press conference may be misleading, but the Pirate Party is a serious political entity, as well as a growing international movement. The German Pirates are an offshoot of the Swedish Pirate Party, founded in 2006, which has placed representatives in the European Parliament and spawned a global phenomenon.
Germany's national media are beginning to take their domestic Pirates seriously, with Spiegel calling it a the new force that should be feared by other parties and Focus magazine claiming that the Twitter politicians are no longer considered a funny troupe, but a strong political opponent.
The party's stance on Internet freedoms, data protection and government transparency has appealed to a new generation of voters, and the Saarland Pirates' focus on political reform has positioned the group as the opposite of the frumpy and jaded FDP, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.
Additionally, although it is Germany's smallest state, Saarland is important because it shows that the Pirate Party has found a broad appeal, not just one within the urban, liberal, highly educated citizens in Berlin, as Rick Falkvinge, the founder of the original Swedish Pirate Party, said in a congratulatory message.
You managed to cross the barrier into a more common, I would say, idea that resonates with the general population. And I think that's key to going outside of Berlin, which after all is a very progressive city, to succeed in a place like Saarland, Falkvinge added.
Pirate Parties have been springing up around the world for the past four years. The party is officially recognized by 17 European nations and it is active in a number of other countries, including the United States, Russia, Australia, Morocco and most of South America.
After the Tunisian Revolution, a member of the Parti Pirate Tunisien named Slim Amamou was appointed secretary of state for sport and youth, although he resigned last May.
The Pirate Party of Greece was founded in January amidst the calamity of the debt crisis there, and is contesting the parliamentary election in May. With the country's two main parties -- the Socialists and the conservative New Democracy -- falling out of favor for imposing savage austerity measures, the Pirates and other fringe parties may do well.
Frankly, I think you've got every shot in the world, Falkvinge said to his German comrades. If you guys can do this is Saarland, than I think that's an indicator that there's no stopping the Pirate Party Movement anywhere in the world.
If you can pull this off, it's going to be such a boost, not just to Saarland, not just to Germany, but to the world.