Supporters of the Pirate Party celebrate after the first exit polls were published in Berlin Sunday. The Pirate party won a surprising 8.9 percent of the vote.
Supporters of the Pirate Party celebrate after the first exit polls were published in Berlin Sunday. The Pirate party won a surprising 8.9 percent of the vote. Adam Berry/AP
The Pirate Party's electoral gains in the Berlin senate and district elections proved so unexpected it may not have enough candidates to fill all of its seats.
In what was an otherwise largely predictable election, Berlin's Pirate Party (Die Piraten) surpassed expectations and the 5 percent threshold for parliamentary representation with a surprising 8.9 percent of the vote.
This is the first time a faction of the Pirate Party, which was founded in 2006, has won seats in a state legislature in Germany.
The party, which is modeled on Sweden's Pirate Party, campaigns for copyright reform, free public transport, information privacy, and free wireless internet.
The party won 15 seats in the Berlin senate, as well as representation on all 12 of Berlin's district parliaments. It polled at 14.3 percent in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, where with just 8 candidates, the party cannot fill all 9 seats it secured.
Three Pirate candidates were elected simultaneously to the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district parliament as well as the senate. As each political representative is allowed only one mandate, the candidates will have to choose between the senate and the district parliament.
Fabio Reinhardt, Oliver Höfinghoff and Alexander Morlang said they will forgo their seats in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, which means the party will lose a seat on the district council. (Each district has a parliament with 55 members and a district council made up of the district mayor and four councilors chosen according to the strength of their party faction in the parliament). If they do so, the council seat will go to the Die Linke (The Left) instead.
Incumbent Berlin mayor, Klaus Wowereit, secured a third term in office despite electoral losses suffered by his Social Democratic Party (SPD) in the senate elections.
The center-left SPD gained a 28.3 percent share of the vote, winning 48 of the 149 seats up for grabs in the senate. This fell short of a projected vote-share of over 30 percent and the 53 seats the party won in the 2006 elections.
The SPD's current coalition partner, Die Linke dropped 3 seats bringing its number of representatives down to 20, which raises the prospect that Wowereit will reach out to either the Greens or the CDU as possible coalition partners.
The Greens increased their number of representatives by 7 to take 30 seats in the senate and will take part in talks with the SPD this week. The controversial extension of the A100 Motorway around Berlin is the main point of dispute between the SPD and the Greens. Prior to the elections the Greens ruled out any coalition with a party that supported the building project, but are now taking a soft approach so as not to upset talks with its potential coalition partner.
"We will calmly take part in talks, and then present the results," Bettina Jarasch said, state leader of Berlin's Green Party.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) put in a reasonable performance, winning 23.4 percent of the vote. While the CDU polled slightly better then it did in in 2006, the party is unlikely to form a government in the senate. This is the sixth of 7 regional election defeats suffered by the chancellor's ruling party.
The CDU's junior coalition party in the federal government, the liberal FDP, failed to breach the 5 percent threshold for entering the senate. In what was its fifth regional election defeat this year, the business-friendly party slumped from 7.6 percent of the vote in the last election to just 1.8 percent this time around. The party's drubbing saw them win fewer votes then the more conservative NPD.
The FDP's political decline could complicate Merkel's efforts to contain the euro-zone debt crisis amidst increasing dissent flowing from the FDP ranks. FDP leader, Phillip Rösler, has become increasingly critical of the Chancellor's willingness to use German cash to help heavily indebted EU countries in recent months.
The SPD won majorities in four of Berlin's district parliaments, while the CDU topped the polls in five districts. The Greens will be the majority party in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, and Die Linke in Marzahn-Hellersdorf and Lichtenberg.
Berlin's populist and anti-immigration parties put in a poor showing at the polls. The NPD, Die Freiheit, and Bürgerbewegung Pro-Deutschland failed to win seats in the senate, while the NPD was the only one of the three to gain seats in the district parliaments. The party, which came under fire during the election campaign for what were described as xenaphobic posters, won seats in Marzahn-Hellersdorf, Lichtenberg and Treptow-Köpenick.
Just over 60 percent of Berlin's 2.5 million eligible voters turned out for the election, an increase of about one percent from 2006.