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While the big win of the German Pirate Party in Berlin was big news, reported even by the New York Times (see also “Boarding Berlin“), yesterday’s win in the state of Saarland had already been expected and thus received less international attention. However, the success is remarkable. With 7,4 percent of the votes, the Pirate Party will receive twice as many seats in Saarland’s state parliament than the Greens. Even more importantly, the Saarland results refute two common explanations of the Berlin victory. First, the success in Berlin was no one shot wonder. Second, Pirates can also win in more rural areas outside of city states .

As a result, media commentators turned to another narrative, attributing the Pirate Party’s success mainly to collecting protest votes. I think this is wrong. While protest does play a role, several indicators suggest that this is not the dominant one.

Strong membership base: Fueled by local election successes, the German Pirate Party reports growing membership numbers all over the country (see Figure below). However, becoming a member can be interpreted as a sign of identification with an organization and differs from mere protest that is directed against the so-called “established parties”.

Membership trend of the German Pirate Party (Source:

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Earlier this year, Wikimedia executive director Sue Gardner proposed to centralize fundraising activities and to move beyond geography-based chapter associations as the primary means of organizing (see “Redrawing the Borders of Wikimedia Governance: Turning the Money Screw“). Her move has inspired severe criticism and respective responses by prominent chapter organizations such as Germany, Italy and several chapters of Spanish-speaking countries. Specifically Wikimedia Germany, the largest chapter in terms of both members and fundraising, invested heavily in a detailed counterproposal entitled “Wikimedia’s culture of sharing: Remarks on common goals, localized fundraising and global action“.

A good impression of the intensity and the front lines of this debate is provided by the comments on a blog post by Wikimedia board member Stu West, where he explained “Why [he] supported the Board letter on fundraising“. The discussion thread also nicely illustrates the challenge of transnational governance, when West is accused of being US-centric:

There is a world outside the U.S. where people act according to different standards and think and decide differently. Our movement has to pay tribute to this fact.

After two months of discussion, Gardner has recently presented a revised version of her recommendations and asked the Foundation’s board to decide on it. The most controversial clause of her initial proposal is still part of her final list of recommendations: Read the rest of this entry »

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
March 2012

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