Sweden: We're not geeks any more, say Pirates of the internet

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The Independent Online

Amid the deluge of bewilderingly long and indigestible political manifestos, that of Sweden's Pirate Party was refreshingly brief – an internet file-sharing free-for-all, a ban on monitoring emails and the abolition of patents. Standing on essentially a single issue might have seemed like cloud-cuckoo land but the Scandinavian fringe party picked up more than 7 per cent of the Swedish vote at the weekend, capturing a seat in the European Parliament.

Not bad going for a bunch of pirates who have only been around for three years and whose supporters dub them the "geek" party.

"Last night, we gained political credibility," founder Rick Falkvinge, 37, told BBC radio. "The establishment is trying to prevent control of knowledge and culture slipping from their grasp. People were not taken in."

One factor in the Pirate Party's incredible rise – coming fifth overall in the country – was the guilty verdict in the Pirate Bay trial in April when four Swedes were sentenced to a year in prison for running one of the world's biggest file-sharing sites. According to Mr Falkvinge, membership of what some see as the political wing tripled in a week just at the time the European election campaign was getting going.

The other factor is the party's appeal to the young on technology issues where mainstream groups have been caught napping. The Pirate Party – which claims to always have someone online even in the early hours of the morning – has accused the establishment of "declaring war against a whole generation". It ended up being the first-choice party for voters under 30 at the weekend, with turnout higher than ever before in Sweden.

"Many Swedes used the Pirate Party as a protest vote against the established Social Democrats and Moderates. It was a way of registering their discontent without having to vote for xenophobic agendas," explained Ulf Bjereld, a political science professor at Gothenburg University.