Case Study: Pirate Party, Czech Republic

The Czech Pirate Party (CPP) grew out of a movement, first launched in Sweden in 2006, focused on digital rights and copyright law. Founded in 2009, the CPP and has since grown into a formidable political force, including by serving as a member of the Czech Republic’s governing coalition. The CPP has repeatedly exceeded the electoral performance of many of its peers, in large part because it has succeeded in broadening its identity beyond a single issue to advance a comprehensive political program.


In the late 2000s and early 2010s, Pirate parties around Europe built up strong membership bases, yet their success at the polls was limited. The main challenge that they faced was that they were frequently perceived by both the media and the electorate as single-issue parties merely focusing on digital issues. The Czech Pirate Party was no exception: although the party had developed a progressive centrist platform with a political agenda expanding beyond digital issues, its identity remained defined by digital issues in the public eye.


In their 2017 election campaign, the party largely sidelined digital issues, recognizing that only a small minority of the electorate considered them a priority. Participation in televised debates allowed Pirate candidates to demonstrate the breadth of their program to the broader public. They placed particular emphasis on transparency and accountability, appealing to voters frustrated with corruption within existing parties. The CPP’s program was initially assembled with input from all members, although only the party's executive committee was able to vote on the final version. 


The 2017 election campaign brought about a major shift in both the public perception of the party and its internal identity. A party spokesperson reported that, due to the broadening of their platform, the CPP had lost a significant proportion of its original member base. Many of these original supporters were frustrated that the original core issues of digital rights had not been substantially featured in the campaign. Yet this attrition was ultimately balanced out by new members who had been drawn in by the party's stance on other issues. In this regard, the CPP had learned from the experience of the Czech Green Party, which had failed to gain traction in recent years due to its perception as a single-issue party. 

In the 2017 national parliamentary elections, the CPP received 10.79% of the votes-- the highest result ever achieved by a Pirate Party in a national election, yielding 22 seats in parliament. In 2021, the Pirates ran as part of the centrist "Pirates and Mayors" alliance, who together received 19% of the votes (although this converted to only four seats for the Pirates). They are currently part of a coalition government composed largely of center-right and right-wing parties.
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