The party I voted for on Sunday in Berlin's local election has won 14 seats. The FDP (a business friendly liberal party, currently in coalition with the CDU) received under 2% of the vote and have thus no seats. A genuine double whammy election shocker. Tabloid-style headlines and sentence structure fully justified.
I voted for the Pirates (Die Piraten) because they are for transparency in the political process, direct democracy, guaranteed income, and other assorted sensible ideas. I thought I'd give a small taste of their platform by translating some of their manifesto so that you have it straight from the pirate's mouth, as it were.
We see transparency as a duty of Berlin. We will abolish regulations for application [I assume this is concerned with over-complicated German bureaucracy regarding political participation], minimize entry restrictions and abolish fees for [publication of political] information and reports. We demand that every step of bidding, contract negotiations and contract signing processes are made public. Every contract will only become valid after it has been made public; old contracts will be looked into anew. Documentation pertaining to committee meetings, board meetings, etc., will be immediately and clearly published, online and offline. In future the public are only to be excluded from sessions in rare cases, sessions will be broadcast live on the internet and recorded. Every delegate is to make public his/her contacts to lobby organizations, unions and other organizations. We will live transparency. All data and works brought into existence by taxpayer funds will be made public and available to every citizen. Berlin must inform her citizens about every new project as early as possible, so that her citizenry has a proper opportunity to participate. Press laws will be changed such that no whistle-blower need have any fear of the state.
We will prepare the way for free, Berlin-wide wireless internet access and abolish operator liability for public WLAN networks. Furthermore we want to show every Berliner and this city's guests how to use this network.
For learning too we insist on the freedom and self-determination of the individual. All students shall have the chance to organize and complete their schooling individually. We want to democratize schooling institutions. In the future there will be one teacher to every fifteen students. We will end the use of filter software in public education establishments and enable free and open access to all information available on the Internet. We will also make sure that all students are able to work with digital media and will school them accordingly. We will also provide free lunches. We will offer students of non-state schools the same developmental opportunities as those of state schools, and expand and improve the teaching of German as a second language. We will abolish fixed school times so as to enable an open and critical coarse of study. Longer term we want to set up a round table as a public forum for all involved in higher education. We want to realize a library statute in Berlin.
Now I did not vote for Die Piraten because I am a political animal fervently in support of one party or the other, nor because I understand the fine details, or even the totality of their whole program in general, but because this is a party called The Pirates who are gently and humorously making the right noises and prodding the mainstream in the right direction. The party has only been around since 2006, so this is an explosive start, and is making headlines here. They've knocked the FDP out of the Berlin Parliament (The Greens expanded their share of the vote too), and this represents a major shift in the politics of Berlin, a sea change.
It just so happens the the father of one of my daughter's friends is "A Pirate" so I will be grilling him soon as to what the party is going to do with its power, and other questions along those lines. If you guys want to know anything, drop me a line...