Fredrik Persson/AP
Sweden's Pirate Party chairman and founder Rickard Falkvinge speaks at a rally in

Will Sweden’s Pirate Party Make an Impact in the European Parliament?

June 11, 2009 07:57 PM
by Liz Colville
Running on a campaign to reform copyright and piracy laws, Sweden’s Pirate Party has won a seat in the European Parliament. But will they get their platform across?

Pirate Party Now Ranked Fifth Among Swedish Parties

The party, led by Rickard Falkvinge, has gained a foothold in the European parliament after months of media attention in Sweden and beyond, the BBC reported. It now holds one of Sweden’s 18 seats.

Falkvinge told the BBC that the court case surrounding Sweden’s The Pirate Bay, the “world’s most high-profile file-sharing website,” had a “significant role” in helping the party seal its victory.

The four founders of The Pirate Bay were sentenced to one year in prison by a Swedish court in April, and were told to pay $4.5 million in damages. That verdict attracted more than 22,000 new members to the Pirate Party, Wired magazine reported.

Background: Principles of the Pirate Party; Party doubles in size after Pirate Bay sentence

According to the Pirate Party’s Web site, the party aims to lessen copyright restrictions, which it feels “severely restrict the very thing they are supposed to promote…File sharing and p2p networking should be encouraged rather than criminalized. Culture and knowledge are good things, that increase in value the more they are shared. The Internet could become the greatest public library ever created.”

The party also seeks more “respect for the right to privacy,” including a limit on government surveillance. It has also proposed alternatives to pharmaceutical and other types of patents.

Wired magazine reported April 22 that the Pirate Party gained 22,000 members following the sentencing of the Pirate Bay founders. But prior to the seat win, there was some skepticism as to whether the party could actually go the distance.

Ulf Bjereld, professor of political science at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, was referenced by Wired as suggesting that it is “unclear that file-sharers care enough about the issue to let it determine what party they vote for.” That proved to be untrue for the European parliamentary election, but may be relevant in Sweden’s election next year.

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Opinion & Analysis: Can the Pirate Party achieve its goals?

Christian Engström, the Pirate Party vice president, told Wired prior to the win that the Internet would be key to the party’s success. “[M]uch of the election campaign will be held on the internet, for example on my blog. But to reach people it’s also important to get noticed in traditional media,” he said. The Internet could thus be used to help the party reach a wider audience and gain further credibility in Sweden’s government.

Sweden’s English newspaper The Local observed that the party has “leapt from nowhere to the top of the table among a generation broadly characterised by political apathy.” Daniel Wijk, a 29-year-old Web developer, was quoted as saying, “If this party hadn't been on the ballot paper, I simply wouldn't have voted.” Data gathered by Swedish polling institute Toivo Sjoren supported Wijk’s sentiment.

This kind of mobility could spread now that the party is represented in Europe. As The Economist notes, “indifference” among European Union voters is high. “The average EU-wide turnout was 43%, the lowest since the first direct elections to the European Parliament in 1979.”

But a challenge for the Pirate Party might be the fact that most left-wing governments “suffered heavy defeats” in the elections; the party’s victory was really an anomaly as “the left did badly even where it is in opposition (France and Italy) or in coalition with the mainstream right (Germany, the Netherlands and Austria).”

Referring to wins by “mavericks” such as the Pirate Party, The Economist says “the parliament has powers over EU legislation that will be further increased if the Lisbon treaty is ratified, but for the most part its loonier fringes can be safely ignored by their saner colleagues.”

Reference: How the European parliamentary system works

The European Parliament originated in the 1950s and is the representative body of E.U. member nations. There are currently 785 seats in the parliament represented by all 27 nations in the E.U., according to the official site of the European Union. Elections are held every five years and “every EU citizen is entitled to vote, and to stand as a candidate, wherever they live in the EU.”

The elected candidates are Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). MEPs “do not sit in national blocks, but in seven Europe-wide political groups. Between them, they represent all views on European integration, from the strongly pro-federalist to the openly Eurosceptic.”

View election results from this year’s parliamentary elections.

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