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German Pirate party seeks electoral comeback

The internet-savvy Pirate party which rose to popularity in Germany two years ago but failed to win any seats in September's election has picked a new leader - Thorsten Wirth a software developer from Frankfurt.

One thousand delegates of Germany's once upstart Pirate party were due to complete their selection of a replacement leadership on Sunday after a drubbing in September's German federal election.

The party, which pollsters once put in the low double-digits, ended up with only 2.2 percent. That result, far under the Bundestag parliament's five-percent entry hurdle, prompted the resignation of the Pirates' nine-member executive.

Wirth, aged 45 and a member of the Pirates since 2006, was elected on Saturday as chairman with a 78 percent vote among delegates. He said he was motivated by "great ideas" among the party's 30,000 members.

He replaces Bernd Schlömer, who along with most other former executive members, did not stand for executive re-election.

Turning point in democracy

Wirth criticized the coalition government planned from December by Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives who last Wednesday reached a tentative deal with the opposition center-left Social Democrats led by Sigmar Gabriel.

"The grand coalition is a fundamental break point for our democracy," said Wirth, adding that the voting public risked losing its ultimate sovereignty given the expected dominance of Merkel's planned coalition.

As deputy chairman Pirate delegates picked Caro Mahn-Gauseweg from Germany's eastern state of Saxony.

Mahn-Gauseweg urged party members to focus on the issues of internet provision, data privacy and civil rights.

Comeback sought

The Pirates, who in 2011 and 2012 had deputies in four regional state assemblies, including Berlin's Senate, are seeking a comeback in May's European parliamentary election. The hurdle for entry into the Strasbourg assembly is three-percent.

Observers say the party's past practice of lengthy member discussions - often via interne blogs - before finalizing policy largely hindered professional campaigning. Of the 30,000 members reportedly only a third pay dues regularly.

ipj/mr (AFP, dpa)

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