Pirate party: the lottery of Luxembourg's election system

Sven Clement, pictured, co-founded the Pirate Party in 2009. Today he is party president and deputy in the centre constituency. Nader Ghavami

Sven Clement, pictured, co-founded the Pirate Party in 2009. Today he is party president and deputy in the centre constituency. Nader Ghavami

President of the Pirate party Sven Clement is overyjoyed after winning two seats for his party on Sunday. But he says it could have been 4, if the voting system were different.

Sven Clement may have only slept for two hours, but he is still patient and highly articulate when he accepts an interview request the day after the elections.

His party “made a splash” on Sunday, he says, after winning its first seats in parliament, in the centre and south--seats that will be occupied by himself, a party co-founder, and Marc Goergen.

“We’re very happy with the results,” he says, crediting the performance to “a combination of showing up, having a good platform, talking to a lot of people. We try not to impose on people but listen to people.”

It is too soon to know whether it was the youth vote that swung in his party’s favour, but Clement’s friendly and open approach, paired with a stubborn persistence to hold the government to account likely charmed old and young. He says the party went beyond its “comfort zone”, campaigning in care homes as well as schools and other meeting places.

2 seats after 9 years' toil

Whatever you credit it to, the party’s goal of winning 5% of the vote was achieved, and then some, in Sunday’s elections. The result--nine years to the month after the Pirate party was founded--has secured its first seats. What is perhaps more astonishing is that they missed out on a third and even fourth seat by around 150 voters.

“People don’t realise how close it was,” he says, explaining that the uneven spread of seat across the four voting constituencies is such that parties can miss out by a hair’s breadth.

In the north, the Pirate party were around 1,350 short of securing the last seat. Divide that number by the nine seats in the north and it is equivalent to around 150 list voters. “That’s 150 people convinced in the north. We would have had that seat. That’s as close as it gets,” he says. It was a similar story in the south and yet in constituencies like in the east, even large voter losses, like the 7.5% loss of the CSV, had little impact on results because there were just seven seats to fill. “This is simply crazy,” says Clement. “It shows the lottery of our elections system. We need to have a discussion about how seats are attributed.”

Credible opposition force

But that does not detract from Clement’s jubilation. Having got most of the interviews out of the way, he says he and Goergen now need to adjust to life on the other side of parliament.

The party was founded in 2009 out of a general dissatisfaction with the lack of transparency in politics, combined with a strong opposition to video surveillance. Clement told Delano in a pre-election interview the party was founded on the “principles of freedom with responsibility for everybody,” principles which today can be applied to a variety of policies.

Holding politicians to account should be easier from inside parliament and Clement says their goal now will be to serve as a “credible opposition force” to the new government. This, he says, will mean doing more agenda-setting and putting things to vote.