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Lower Saxony Pirates in a Turbulent Sea

Dr. Meinhart Ramaswamy

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It took the Pirates of Lower Saxony in Germany three meetings and a lot of pain and anguish to select a list of candidates for their elections to the state parliament, Landtag, due in January 2013. A combination of factors led to a long torturous process to accomplish what most political parties can accomplish in a few hours. See Pirate Times article.

Dr. Meinhart Ramaswamy (the leading candidate for the coming elections), in a conversation with the author, identified some of the problems which stem from a variety of sources.
Complexity
German laws are not consistent at federal, state and local levels. An EU citizen can vote in a local election but not in a state or federal one. The same is true for German citizens living in Lower Saxony, who are between 16 and 18 years of age.
Persons who are in the above categories but are non-EU citizens can become members of the Lower Saxony Pirate Party and can vote on elements of the manifesto but must not partake in any vote concerning candidates for elections. This means accreditation must be carefully controlled to avoid mix ups.
Human error
The German Pirate Party members are volunteers who work long hours in their spare time and mistakes always possible if not probable.
Trolls
Every organization has them with both good and evil but very definitely their own agendas. They will even subvert the democratic process to get their way.
Time
A party that is based on open democracy will find time to get things done a valuable commodity.
The campaign will begin 22 September 2012 in the “constituency of the minister-president” David McAllister and the Lower Saxony Pirates are ready for a hard and piratic campaign.
The PPDE boat outside the conference hall

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What can pirates around the world learn from all this?

Think ahead
We pirates are human and we pirates are volunteers. We can and do make mistakes. Parties need to be mindful to set up systems to catch errors as they occur and to make provisions to be able to correct problems that, despite all the efforts to prevent them, slip through the net. We stand for transparency in politics but we are vulnerable when we practice the same. Our opponents will look for any excuse to criticize and ridicule so thicken that skin.
If you are organizing a decision making meeting then:
Think Ahead
  • Make sure you have a system for settling disputes that is agreed on before hand. If there is no Court of Arbitration or similar, in your parent organization, then create your own – have a minimum of 3 people (always an odd number) elected to that office.
  • Create check lists for each step of the organization process.
  • Proof read all documents by at least two people who are not the authors.
  • Have separate accreditation and identification,e.g. voting cards, if people are not allowed to partake in some votes.
  • Have printing facilities on hand in case documents are found to be falsely printed.
  • School all helpers in what they are expected to do before hand. Discuss what to do if something goes wrong and what to do if they discover a problem.
  • Ensure that critical helpers, such as election staff, are approved of by the delegates before the voting starts.
Take Time
  • Repeatedly ask delegates to point out any suspected problems.
  • Sort out problems as they occur. Even when it disrupts the meeting.
Trolls will always be in our midst – they are annoying but they can provide a service. If they can find a weak point in your procedures then your political opponents will find them for sure. If you can identify them and put them to use identifying potential problems then do so.
If you are a troll or have troll like tendencies then offer your services to the party before critical meetings and help the party to save time and money instead of disrupting everything afterward.
More generally: ask your local authorities to help you identify any pitfalls and traps in setting up your organization and preparing for elections. Read the wikis of other pirate parties and ask for advice in forums. They will not always apply to your situation but being aware is better. Get in contact with pirate parties in your near and share resources.
Share everything – it is a pirate principle.
Featured Image: CC BY Pirate Times
Andrew Reitemeyer

About Andrew Reitemeyer

I joined the Pirate Party of Lower Saxony in Germany in April 2012, once I found out that non citizens were welcome to join and become active members of the Party. I joined the Pirate Times soon after it was started as a proof reader and am now an editor and author. Since then I have returned to my native New Zealand and joined the Pirate Party of New Zealand. Politically I come from the libertarian left and have, up to now, not regarded any political party as having a solution for the democratic deficit that envelops the world. With the advent of the Pirate Party, which truly embraces grass roots democracy, I have found a political home. The Pirate Times is a way I can contribute to furthering the Pirate Movement around the world. Skype: frithogar

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