By Timothy Revell
This weekend, the political landscape in Iceland could be transformed. Polls show a real possibility that the Pirate Party – best known for its anti-establishment views and activism over copyright law and transparency – could come into power.
In opinion polls conducted in October, the Pirate Party is tied for first place with the Independence Party (currently in government) and the Left-Green Movement. The pirates and the greens have agreed to form a coalition, and if after Saturday’s election they have a majority – perhaps with the help of some other parties – they will become the government of Iceland.
“We don’t know what will happen on election night,” says Björn Leví, a Pirate Party candidate hoping to be elected on Saturday. “It will be very exciting, and it looks like it will be amazing for the Pirate Party.”
Iceland’s Pirate Party is led by Birgitta Jónsdóttir. The first Pirate Party was established in Sweden in 2006 with the main intention of reforming copyright law. Political parties acting under the Pirate Party banner now have a presence in many countries.
“In Iceland we’ve expanded the Pirate Platform,” says Leví. “We’re not just about copyright and privacy, we’re about transparency and direct democracy as well.”
Sailing to high seatsIn the 2013 Icelandic general election, the Pirate Party managed to just get past the 5 per cent voting threshold to gain its first three seats in parliament. In 2016, it could do much better. The party is currently at around 22 per cent in the polls, a vote share that would give it a real chance of forming a government with other left-leaning parties.
Most pirate parties have struggled to appeal to more than a niche audience, but proposals for more personal privacy, greater government transparency and less corruption seem to be chiming with voters in Iceland.
“We’re still that group of nerdy tech enthusiasts,” says Leví. “But we’re unique in the political landscape with the issues we are discussing.”
Earlier this year, the Icelandic prime minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson was caught up in the Panama Papers leak when his family was linked with undeclared offshore investments. More than 10,000 Icelanders protested outside parliament, calling for a snap election. Directly after the protest, the Pirate Party was hitting its best ever polling figures.
“Everyone is talking about transparency in Iceland. Things like privacy and copyright are a harder sell,” says Leví.
Other ideas suggested by the Party include making bitcoin legal tender and giving US whistle-blower Edward Snowden citizenship.
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