A linguistics professor in Bamberg is considered the most powerful member of Germany’s burgeoning Pirate Party, even though he holds no office. Martin Haase engages in politics almost exclusively through the Internet using the party’s Liquid Feedback software. The platform is flattening the political hierarchy and is unique among German political parties.

Martin Haase doesn’t have to give any hard-hitting speeches at party conferences, nor does he spend time at board meetings or in back rooms to hone his power. When the 49-year-old professor wants to engage in politics, he just opens his laptop and logs in to Liquid Feedback, the Pirate Party’s online platform for discussing and voting on political proposals.

For hours at a time, the political newcomers (the Pirates first formed in Germany in 2006) discuss their party’s goals, and each member has the opportunity to use Liquid Feedback as a platform to promote his or her positions — which can range from the Pirate Party fielding its own presidential candidate to the appeal to deescalate the conflict with Iran. It isn’t always easy to secure a majority for a given cause on the site.

Until Haase intervenes, that is. The linguistics professor has a sort of virtual alliance backing him on Liquid Feedback. Up to 167 fellow party members have periodically delegated their vote to him on the site, which is more than any other Pirate Party member can claim. When members recently argued against extending the term of their national leadership by two years, Haase intervened. Annual elections of the executive committee would mean the members would have to spend too much time dealing with getting reelected rather than devoting their attention to the real issues. “We need more time for political work,” he said. Haase’s vote was like a decree.

Continue reading →