Iceland's radical Pirate Party, run by a former WikiLeaks worker who wants to be a political "Robin Hood," could lead the Nordic nation's next government after Saturday's election.
The Pirate Party, started four years ago, is part of a wave of populist groups gaining ground in Europe, from Austria to Italy, amid discontent with political scandals and a stalled economic recovery. Iceland's economy collapsed after the 2008 financial crisis, and in April the prime minister resigned after being named in the Panama Papers scandal.
"We stand for enacting changes that have to do with reforming the systems, rather than changing minor things that might easily be changed back," said Birgitta Jónsdóttir, 49, the party's leader and self-described "poetician." "We do not define ourselves as left or right but rather as a party that focuses on the systems. In other words, we consider ourselves hackers."
Formed in 2012 to lobby for Internet copyright reform, the Pirate Party has broadened its platform to include advocating for direct democracy, total government transparency, decriminalizing drugs and even offering asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.
The party's headquarters in the capital Reykjavík is in a building appropriately called Tortuga — a reference to the former Caribbean pirate stronghold off the coast of Haiti. The group's official logo is a black Viking sail.
"We want to be the Robin Hood of power: We want to take away the power from the powerful and give it to the general public of Iceland," Jónsdóttir said.
A poll this week by research firm MMR had the ruling center-right Independence Party with a slight lead over the Pirate Party. But an Oct. 19 poll by the University of Iceland put the Pirate Party marginally ahead of the Independence Party, which has been the dominant political force in Iceland for decades.
The Independence Party lost support in part after the Panama Papers showed that Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson and his wife secretly owned an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands for their investments. He then stepped down from his post.
Kim Hjelmgaard , USA TODAY
Election 2016 Results
Invalid/blank votes 5,574
In brief | Pirate Party
What: A pro-free speech, anti-authoritarian political party in Iceland
Founders: A group of anarchists, hackers and internet-freedom activists
Leader: The party eschews formal leaders but Birgitta Jonsdottir is the most senior of three Pirate lawmakers in Iceland’s parliament
“I would like everybody in Iceland to find the pirate within, because the pirate within really represents change and a collective vision for the future.”
- Birgitta Jonsdottir, Pirate Party lawmaker