Indian-origin candidate contesting key poll in German state
Berlin: Indian-origin politician and social scientist Mohan Meinhart Krischke Ramaswamy heads the German Pirate Party's bid to enter the legislature in Lower Saxony in a key state election on Sunday.
Germany's new political force has pinned its hopes on 59-year-old Ramaswamy to have representation in a fifth state Parliament and thereby boost its chances to gain seats in the Bundestag or national Parliament here for the first time in the federal election scheduled for September.
Since 2011, the Pirate Party has succeeded in securing enough vote share to enter four state Parliaments in Germany, namely Berlin, North Rhine-Westphalia, Saarland and Schleswig-Holstein.
Ramaswamy, who joined the Pirate Party in 2009 and became the treasurer of the state unit, was elected its leading candidate with a large majority at a special party congress last August. He has also been operating as a management board member of a regional division of the party in Lower Saxony.
The outcome of today's state election is being watched with great interest as it is seen as a crucial test of public support ahead of the national election.
As in Berlin, Lower Saxony is currently ruled by a coalition of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP).
Riding a wave of support from voters disgruntled with the established mainstream parties and from young people attracted by its calls for internet freedom, transparency and guaranteed basic income for everyone, the Pirate Party, which emerged on the German political scene in 2006, has so far secured representation in four of Germany's 16 state legislatures.
The party's first success was scored in September 2011 when it won 15 seats in Berlin's 149-member Senate.
Later it entered the state assemblies in North Rhine Westphalia, Schleswig Holstein and Saarland.
However, internal divisions among its leaders, lack of concrete policies and programmes and its failure to make a mark as a new political force had cost the party a lot of its public appeal.
The latest opinion polls forecast that the Pirate Party may secure only around three per cent of the votes and fail to cross the five per cent hurdle to secure a representation in the state Parliament in Hannover.
The party's national support also dropped from around 12 per cent forecast early last year, according to the polls.
In spite of the gloomy prospects for his party, Ramaswamy said in a recent newspaper interview that he is very optimistic about winning the election.
Born as the son of an Indian father and a Czech mother in Vienna, Ramaswamy grew up in Germany. He studied social sciences and journalism in the north German city of Goettingen, where he has been living since 1972.
Ramaswamy, who has also directed films and worked as a publisher of scientific publications, said he was attracted to the Pirate Party because of its "diversity and openness" and its efforts to keep the public involved in the political process.