German parties prepare for the general elections less than a week away. What did seven of them answer to the German Wikimedia chapter’s questions on internet politics?
Since the European Elections in June, when the Piratenpartei Deutschland achieved 0,9 % of the vote, it gained a lot of attention and also new members. Following the Swedish example (Piratpartiet), the German Pirates try to get into parliament. Thanks to a former Social Democratic member, they even already have a member of Bundestag, the German federal diet.
It is doubtful whether the party will (re-)enter the Bundestag on September 27th. The polls do not mention it, and European Elections run under different conditions (such as the low rate of participation). Germany’s election system has a threshold of five percent to enter the parliament, but there is also a threshold of 0,5 percent for a party to get government funding for the campaign. This goal should not be impossible to reach.
On September 17th Wikimedia Deutschland published ‘touchstones’ (Wahlprüfsteine): Wikimedia-related questions to political parties and the answers. All parties with members in the Bundestag have been asked, all of them answered: the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats, both in the current government of Angela Merkel, the green-alternative Green Party, the liberal Free Democrats and the post communists of The Left. Often the parties tried to evade a direct answer or came with a ‘on the one hand, on the other hand’. Nevertheless it became very clear who stands closer to the Wikimedia goal of free knowledge than others.
Evil tongues claim that a liberal’s heart sits on the left and his wallet on the right. The old saying becomes evident in the answers of the Free Democrats. On nearly all issues, the Free Democrats stand in opposition or at least reluctant to Wikimedia interests because they usually advocate business and commerce (e.g. when it comes to exploitation rights of copyright orphans). The only affirmative answer is related to the controversial law against child pornography: Like Wikimedia Deutschland the Free Democrats fear that the internet block could be extended to other kinds of unwanted social behavior.
The different opinions of the German parties can be shown representatively on the hand of the issue of net neutrality. Net neutrality means that every user of the internet has to be treated equally, that no one can pay in order to make ‘his’ data packets be passed through quicker than others. Greens, The Left and the Pirates are strictly for equal treatment and want to fight for legislature if necessary. The Free Democrats, on the contrary, are in favour of the deregulation of communication markets and do not mind a ‘pronounced competition on infrastructure’.
The answers of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats were more lukewarm. The Christian Democrats mention the problem of refinancing the net, and the Social Democrats say that this is a current issue in the United States but not in Germany.
What do they think about the role and quality of Wikipedia? This question gave the parties an easy opportunity to make some good will points (and maybe some nice testimonies). In contrast, on the issue of governmental works the reactions were the least positive. Wikimedia Deutschland would like to see that works of the government belong automatically to the public domain, such as in the US, or be published at least under open access. The parties want to see that only with restrictions, or (Free Democrats) actually not at all, at least no publicly funded researcher should be forced to publish that way. The Pirates are the sole party to stand on the side of Wikimedia concerning this issue.
A limited party
It may depend on many factors which party the run-of-the-mill Wikimedian will cherish on September 27th. It is difficult to get a full picture of the Pirate Party, due to its thematically very limited party programme. Undoubtedly many Wikimedians share with the Pirates certain emotions and a feeling of superiority to less experienced internet users. They dispise the federal minister of justice who does not know what a browser is, the Greens, who fought the census 25 years ago but now tell everything about them to Google, and The Left people who type their pamphlets against monopolist capitalism on Windows applications.
People who are interested in parties that are not represented in the Bundestag (and were consequently not asked by Wikimedia Deutschland) can download election manifestos from the internet. For example the manifesto of the far right wing National Democrats with weighty eight megabytes and meager 44 pages. By the way, you will not find the words internet, copyright, new media, software, computer in it…