COLOGNE, Germany - The Pirate Party, once portrayed as a radical fringe group of Internet hackers and copyright thieves, on Sunday proved beyond doubt there are a political force to be reckoned with, claiming their fourth-straight victory in German state elections.

The Pirates won 7.6 per cent of the vote in North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany's most popular state, according to initial estimates, enough for 18 seats in parliament. The Pirates have now won representation in four German states and seem destined to enter Germany's federal parliament, the Bundestag, in national elections next year.

German Pirate Party Scores Third Election Win

The Pirates' platform includes calls a major reform of copyright legislation, as well as demanding free Internet access for all citizens and a minimum income law. But copyright issues have played no real role in the Pirates' successful election campaigns. Instead, the party has attracted voters by calling for greater political transparency and stricter online privacy laws.