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Pirate Party charts course towards elections

Germany's upstart Pirate Party fired verbal broadsides against the nation's political mainstream at its weekend conference. Its poll ratings, once at 13 percent, have sunk to under 5 percent after internal squabbles.

Nordrhein-Westfalen/ Mitglieder der Piratenpartei geben am Sonntag (25.11.12) in Bochum beim Bundesparteitag der Piraten einem Antrag ihre Zustammung. Die Piraten wollen auf dem Parteitag wichtige Elemente ihres Wahl- und Grundsatzprogramms beschliessen. (zu dapd-Text) Foto: Clemens Bilan/dapd

Abschluss Parteitag Piratenpartei Bochum

Ten months ahead of Germany's next federal election, the Internet freedom party ended its conference in the Ruhr District city of Bochum on Sunday by adopting mostly leftward leaning policies.

These included proposals on a basic income for citizens and a set minimum wage. The 2,000 delegates also endorsed greater European integration and Germany's decision to phase out nuclear energy. They agreed neither to pursue the aim of full employment nor to follow policy oriented solely towards growth.

The Pirates' political director Johannes Ponader attacked Angela Merkel's political style as "colorless" and hit out at the Social Democratic Party's (SPD) designated candidate Peer Steinbrück over lavish speech fees which he later forwarded to charity.

Ponader said Merkel's center-right Christian Democrats (CDU) were flirting with the ecologist Greens and might even forge a coalition with the SPD after the federal election in the fall of 2013. He said such a constellation would lead to political deadlock.

"That's why we need the Pirates," he told party members.

Support for the party has been on the wane since it surged to a 13 percent rating in the polls in April. Hit by internal squabbles played out in public via Twitter, surveys show the Pirates polling on just under five percent of the electorate, the threshold a party normally needs to enter parliament.

"The winner is not the person who screams the loudest or hurls the worst insults," said Ponader, in an appeal for Pirate Party unity.

'An end to disrespect'

On Saturday, party leader Bernd Schlömer had lamented the quarrelling and apologized for a perceived failure of leadership.

"It is time for us to realize we want to do politics together, without insulting, disrespecting or ignoring one another," Schlömer said. "I too have made errors and I would like to apologize for them to you."

The party first emerged in Germany in 2006 and went on to win seats in regional state assemblies in Berlin, North Rhine-Westphalia, Schleswig-Holstein and Saarland.

rc/ipj (dpa, AFP,dapd)

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