Pirate Party lands its first mayorship

The first Pirate Party mayor was elected on Sunday in Switzerland

"I've just ousted Eliane as the Mayor of Eichberg!," announced Alex Arnold in a Twitter message Sunday evening after winning the local election in the Swiss town of Eichberg. Arnold, elected with more than 60 percent of the vote, is the first Pirate Party member ever to become a mayor.

Arnold, a 31-year-old software developer who works for a company that develops data center software for local authorities, grew up in the U.K and Switzerland and has been living in Eichberg since 1990, according to his website. Eichberg is a small village located close to the border with Austria and has 1,426 residents, according to the town's website.

The new mayor from the Pirate Party defeated two candidates from the much older Swiss People's Party, local media reported. The Pirates had less luck in the nearby, much bigger town of St. Gallen, where the Pirate Party became the 12th biggest party out of a total of 14, according to local election results.

This is an "important milestone" that proves that the members of the party constitute more than a marginal phenomenon, the Swiss Pirate Party stated on its website. This victory is especially important after disappointing parliamentary elections, the party added.

Arnold, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, stated on his website that he was overwhelmed and looking forward to his new challenge in Eichberg.

While the Pirate Party is often associated with copyright and Internet issues, Arnold highlights on his site that the Pirate Party is not just a one-issue party. "The Pirates are not the ones that want to have everything on the Internet," he stated, adding that the pirates are indeed often critical about companies like Google and Facebook when it comes to protection of personal data.

Information, rather than farming and labor, leads today's economy, he noted. The Pirates understand information-age issues and want to better protect people's privacy, battle "state censorship" and stimulate media literacy to educate the youth instead of protecting them by "populist bans," he added.

"It is important to preserve the independence of Eichberg," Arnold stressed in a message to the Eichberg municipality published on his blog. He wants to achieve this by promoting and maintaining active village life, for instance by supporting local community organizations.

"As mayor I will work together with the council team with all my strength and all my heart for the good of the community and its future," he stated.

Arnold's victory follows recent Pirate Party wins in Germany. In March four Pirates were elected to the second state parliament. The German Pirates also won by focusing on government transparency, access to education as a prerequisite and the right of the people to actively partake in the decision-making process, instead of focusing on copyright issues.

The highest position a Pirate Party member has ever achieved was deputy to the Minister for Youth and Sports in Tunisia, held by Slim Amamou from January to May 2011. The Swedish Pirate Party has managed to get two members elected to the European Parliament and in 2011, 15 Pirate Party members were elected to the state parliament of Berlin.

Loek covers all things tech for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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