The Swedish Election turned out to be a litlle disappointing for The Pirate Party. However, it was the first time the Ship was in the “open water”, but definitely not the last.
This Swedish election has been special in many ways. It was if though the parliamentary parties and the media outlets of Sweden decided to boycott all the parties that didn’t already have seats in the parliament. The media let virtually no space for smaller parties – debate articles were refused, press releases not printed and so on. The parliamentary parties were not willing to debate with the smaller parties. Even the Swedish election authorities did not make their numbers official until Wednesday, three days after the election.
Despite this, the smaller parties shared about 5.7% of the votes. This is nearly double compared to the last elections. Sweden is a country with high percentage of active voters – at peak years, close to 90% of the voters place their ballots. This year, this number was 81,5% – and everyone seems happy that at least it’s not as bad as last time, when less than 80% voted.
Unfortunately The Pirate Party is a typical example of a smaller party.
They are completely ignored by news and media outlets. The papers have more or less openly decided to shut out smaller parties. The debate articles weren’t published – I think the Metro newspaper went so far as to reply they didn’t view the Pirate Party as a party, but as a special interest group. The press releases have been ignored, and the party was good enough to be in the papers only if reporters have somehow sniffed a possible scoop – or scandal. The fact that a member left the Pirate Party to help a reality show pin-up with her personal campaign (the Unique party, which only had her name on the ballots) made news. That the Pirate Party had outgrown the Green Party (government party) did not.
It was shunned by the political establishment. A consensus has been reached to only accept governmental parties into the light. Probably this is a strategy to keep white supremacists out of the fine halls of debate, out of the TV studios, and out of having an accepted platform. But this also reflected badly on other smaller parties, such as the Pirate Party, who were not allowed in public debates, not allowed to put up one little election hut (an endearing Swedish tradition, where you build little huts or cots near malls and communication centers in towns and suburbs and large centers of the cities).
Despite this, the Pirate Party has thrived. It has now over 9 000 members, which is better than, as mentioned, the Green Party. The complete lack of funds, being virtually dependent on member charity and the RELAKKS cooperation, meant that the party had to rely completely on active members. Not only for printing and putting up posters or handing out flyers, but also to make sure there were ballot papers at all the polling stations. The Pirate Party succeeded in doing that. On almost every polling station there were ballot papers, not only on Election Day, but on all the several other locations where people could pre-vote, there were also ballot papers.
Come Election Day, many, many members stood outside the polling station for twelve hours, handing out ballot papers to people coming in. As did the seven major parties, only while their representatives was standing there for an hour or two, getting paid for their troubles while waiting to be substituted by someone else, Pirate Party members stood for hours expecting no one to relieve them and getting no payment for their troubles.
Despite this, the results were not as good as hoped for. As of now, the official result is 0.63%. As numbers go, everything but 1% must be seen as some sort of disappointment. The outcome was not what had been expected. For every member, there were about 3-4 voters. Suffice to say, the many members that had gathered on a restaurant in Stockholm didn’t cheer as much as might have been expected beforehand. Perhaps the winds did not blow so strongly into the sails of the Pirate ship as one might have expected.
But not everything in politics are numbers. There are also things to brag about.
In eight months the Pirate Party grew from nothing to 9 000 members, more members than one of the parliamentary parties. This is in a time where virtually every political party are together losing tens of thousands of members. Day in and day out newsspapers write that people are losing interest in party politics. However, even on Election Day the Pirate Party received some 100 new members, simply by handing out ballot papers.
In three months, Pirate Parties has started in fifteen countries. Socialist, liberal, conservative parties have sister parties in many countries. But these are networks that took years, even decades, to develop. For it to pop up in fifteen countries over one summer is unheard of in history.
So, the Pirate Party didn’t reach the 1% mark. This means they will not have their ballot papers placed for them at the next elections (to the European Parliament in three years). But the Pirate Party has proved that they can have their ballot papers out by their own means. And since they are still growing, chances are they have an easier time doing it then.
However, The Pirate Party had other triumphs. Together with the Pirate Bay raid and the work of Piratbyran and other groups and people, copyright issues are now a part of the political agenda. One of the major parties has placed some stress on it as part of their campaign. Most of the parties, both in the new government as well as the opposition, changed their views on copyright and come to the conclusion that a revision might not be such a bad idea after all. Seats or no seats, the Pirate Party has had a huge impact, this must not be forgotten.
Now starts a new phase in the Pirate Party – a phase where ideology will be strenghtened, where they will lend support and help to pirates in all countries, and where they build up their inner structure and look forward to the next election.
The ship is in the water. Now it’s up to the Pirate Party to Sail it!
Perhaps it is nice to give a little more detail on the results of the Swedish Elections, for those who are interested.
Close to 100 000 people turned in blank ballots, which means, something like, ‘I agree with the voting system, but I don’t care about any single political party.’ It would be like three million American voters choose to vote, but vote for nobody. ‘We like our system, but to us it doesn’t matter who the hell runs it – the difference is not big enough for us to care.’ Together, the small parties and the blank ballots come close to corresponding to the total increase in voting numbers. So, in reality, one can seriously question if this was at all any gain to the established parties.
There was a change in government. From the Socialist block, consisting of the Social Democrats, the Left (ex-communist) party and the Green Party that has been controlling the country, to the Alliance, that spans from liberals to mildly conservatives, in the three non-socialist parties. For the first time in forever, a non-socialist government will be installed when not in an economic crisis.
But, to be honest, one can question whether this Alliance are really the winners. Many, many of the blank votes, and most of the votes on smaller parties, can easily be deducted as protests against the Social Democrats, who, through decades and decades of power, have developed strong power bonds and, as being the ruling party, hosting most of Sweden’s political scandals, most of its personal gainers, snobs, magnates, cheaters. These votes weren’t so much pro-Alliance as anti-Social Democrats. Which is illustrated by the fact that the Moderates, being the largest of the Alliance parties, won back a little bit more than the support they had lost the last elections, the fact that the Center Party gained a very small number of seats, the fact that the Christian Democrats and the People’s Party the liberals both lost even if they were on the winning side. The Christian Democrats lost a third of their votes. The People’s Party lost almost half.
In the municipality of Stockholm, the Green Party, being the smallest of the parties in the ruling red-green coalition, is seen as the winner. They nearly doubled their votes compared to the last election. Good to mention is that they ran a fierce banner campaign on subways and busses propagating for re-legalizing file sharing. Ironically the Pirate Party has more members than they have.