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Voting denied, enter pirates

This coming Sunday, Germany is voting its parliament for the next four years. I wanted to participate remotely, but they didn't let me. The letter, inviting me to order the voting forms, was sent too late. Instead of ordering and waiting for the voting forms, hoping for them to arrive back in Germany before the municipal agency stops all their work at 16:59 on Friday afternoon, I filled in the fields in a way to give my mother full authority to submit my vote. On the document, it only said that she would need a notary procuration, which she has.

When my mother tried to vote in my name, they refused her: the vote has to be confidential, and proxies may only vote for disabled people, or those who cannot read. I can understand half of the motivation behind this — it guards against abuse — but the bottom line is that I am now unable to cast a vote. Democracy stabbed by bureaucracy.

Well, democracy to the limited degree that we have it in Germany. I do not mean to criticise at this time that voting in Germany means to place trust into people you'd rather not trust, but once they get majority, they can do whatever they want for four years. The specific shortcoming in our democracy on which I would like to focus is the "five percent clause", which states that a party needs to reach 5% of votes before they can enter the parliament; if those 5% are not reached, all votes for the party are basically lost.

I suspect that this clause is what's keeping back a lot of people from electing Germany's pirate party, which focuses on the importance of freedom in today's media-centric and interconnected world. It seems doubtful that the Piratenpartei will reach the limit this round, but given all the attention they recently received, as well as their plain cause, I would not be surprised if they did. I think it is important for people to vote the party they want, without letting the 5% limit discourage them. Anything else would be undemocratic.

Let's return to the pirates: it's paramount for the government to consider freedom and related issues, and to put clueful people on the job. The Piratenpartei is the only party that approaches the issue properly, all the others are just too happy to succomb to castration of personal freedom for such lofty goals as anti-terrorism, or the containment of child pornography.

I don't like terrorists, and I think child pornography is among the most horrific ways to abuse defenceless humans in irrevocable ways that I can imagine. But I also don't like losing my deodorant to airport security, cameras tracking my every move, (diletantic) censorship on the Internet, and lack of control over my own data. Time to put an end to that, and to solve problems without castrating freedom. Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying: "they that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

The Piratenpartei is probably not capable of leadership at this point, for they are young. But they can help the leading party maintain a bearing. That's what the Greens did, successfully albeit slowly, and I appreciate that the pirates are approaching the matter before it will be too late.

The media have not missed a chance to try to stomp over them in recent months, but at the end of the day, after all the slander and some obvious mistakes on the side of the party, I still see a group of people prepared to fight for freedom with an open and honest approach. The run-ins with the media are hardly about content, it seems more that the Piratenpartei is simply unable to become part of the sensationalist mash which is our media-politician ensemble.

And I think that's good. I appreciate a party communicating not via their PR office, but with new media, like blogs, or e-mail. I appreciate that their people maintain the personality of a human trying to do politics, not a politician trying to come across as human.

If my municipality had let me vote, I would have selected the pirates. They may not make the 5% this year, but I would not let that be a reason against them. If one believes in democracy, then it's important to do it right.