Pirates on course for the Bundestag? | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 30.04.2012
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Pirates on course for the Bundestag?

The Pirates have elected a new leader to take the helm of their fledgling political party. The planned course is clear: federal representation. The party has also taken a firm stand against right-wing elements.

The Pirates agreed to expand their federal committee from seven to nine members during their weekend party conference in Neumünster. "The workload, which is still honorary, must be carried by shoulders," said the outgoing party chairman Sebastian Nerz. The number of Pirate Party members has soared in recent months, as has the challenge to perform.

The new top pirate, Bern Schlömer, was elected with a 66.6 percent majority, swapping his previous position of deputy party chairman with the incumbent Nerz, who in turn was endorsed as the new deputy with 73.8 of the votes.

New chairman: political savvy

Bernd Schlömer on the podium

Bernd Schlömer is a criminologist and social scientist

Schlömer, a criminologist and social scientist, knows the ins and outs of daily politics. He is the government director in the defense ministry headed by the CDU politician Thomas Thomas de Maizière. The 41-year-old is considered a good candidate to balance out the various political factions in the party. His political experience and proximity to federal politics is just what the Pirates need right now.

Speaking at a press conference, Schlömer underlined that the most pressing task for his party was to establish a platform for the general elections. "This is the most important task in the coming months," said Schlömer, announcing two special party conferences to deal with the issue. He also wants to enhance the party's democratic decision making process and further develop the voting tool Liquid Democracy.

Setting a clear course towards Germany's lower house or Bundestag was the most surprising aspect of this party conference. It would appear that the party leadership and the basis are pulling together on this count. As the party's newly elected federal executive committee took to the stage, the moderator said: "This is the leadership we need to take us into the Bundestag." On the sidelines of the party conference participants were confident that the Pirates will be represented on a federal level after the 2013 elections.

Johannes Ponader on stage at the party conference

Johannes Ponader is the new political director

The newly elected political director, Johannes Ponader, used his first speech to broach the big topics the Pirates want to tackle. "We want a paradigm shift. We must change our perception and learn to ask the right questions," he said. Ponader describes himself as a moderator within the party, which is why he wants to keep quiet externally on topics for one year. It remains to be seen whether he will restrict himself to this role. His predecessor Marina Weißband developed into a Pirate Party figurehead and media darling despite her actual role of focusing on internal matters.

Ponader is a pedagogue, actor, film director and Berliner. He has strong backing within the party because he pushed through the demand for an unconditional basic salary. He was elected to his post with 74.4 percent of the vote.

Integration tasks

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Pirates elect new leadership at party conference

During the presentations and questioning of candidates standing for the various posts there was one recurring topic: integrating the numerous new members into the party and avoiding internal political divisions - the latter was stressed strongly by both Schlömer and Ponader. Naturally, this is a difficult task for a party that came out of nowhere and grew rapidly.

Fostering communication between the different generations will also be a likely task when it comes to integration. The younger party members have a different take on things than their older party colleagues. Twenty-two-year-old Fabian from Bavaria says he has no problem talking to the older party members - sometimes it is even easier than with his peers. However, he does point out that some of them may have been in politics for too long. "They sometimes can be a bit set in their ways," he says.

Extremist will not be tolerated

Pirates holding up an anti-racism banner at the party conference

Group photo at the federal party conference

Apart from electing a new leadership, the party conference also made plain that right-wing extremist ideas will not be tolerated. This was in response to repeated rows over past comments on National Socialism made by individual Pirates. As a result, the party conference executives decided to change the conference agenda. There was unanimous backing for a proposal to speak out unequivocally against Holocaust deniers. During the obligatory group photo a banner was presented with the slogan "Don't give racism an inch." Speaking at the concluding press conference, the chairman said: "We are taking a firm stand against right-wing extremism." When quizzed about further measures, Schlömer announced more scrutiny based on talks.

In Germany two new state parliaments are to be elected in the next two weeks and surveys suggest the Pirates will be boarding the state parliaments in North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig Holstein. They are already represented in Berlin and the Saarland.

Author: Kay-Alexander Scholz / nk
Editor: Gabriel Borrud

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