Icelandic Pirates set sail for mainstream
Iceland’s Pirates may be about to make history as a new opinion poll conducted by the Social Science Research Institute of the University of Iceland for Icelandic daily Morgunbladid indicates that over one in five voters will be voting Pirate.
Published: October 24, 2016, 11:11 am
The data from 14-19 October, puts the Pirate Party in first place with 22.6%, ahead of the centre-right Independence Party, currently in power, as public cynicism with a political system long steered by an insider clique has taken root.
If the Iceland’s 63-seat national parliament (‘Alþingi’) are led by the Pirates, Edward Snowden will be invited to move to Iceland, they say.
This is 2016 where political “impossibilities” have become reality. Britain voted for Brexit and Donald Trump won the Republican nomination. Soon the Pirate Party may be the first of its kind in Europe.
The hacker-led movement is leading a direct-democracy uprising across Europe. The gaggle of geeks, hackers, anarchists and libertarians sets policy through online polls and wants to turn Iceland into privacy haven, free of digital snooping.
The rise of the Pirates from radical fringe to the main party in Icelandic politics, has even taken the party’s founder, a poet, Web programmer and former WikiLeaks activist, by surprise. The 49-year-old Birgitta Jónsdóttir said she never envisioned the party governing so soon.
Jónsdóttir, who could soon could lead Iceland’s parliament in Reykjavík as prime minister, has occupied a parliamentary seat for seven years, since 2012 as the front person of the Pirate Party.
The unlikely politician told THe Nation she would stand by to watch the Pirates devolve into just another hack party in a dysfunctional system, but instead reinvest power in the legislature to bring politics closer to the people.
“We’re fighting for fundamental democratic change,” Jónsdóttir explained.
The beautiful island just beyond the Arctic Circle has a population of 323,000, with no military and an economy rooted in tourism and fishing. The country is equitable, peaceful and prosperous, and home to the world’s oldest parliament.
Their governing body dates back to a gathering of Norse settlers in A.D. 930. As Paul Hockenos from The Nation notes, Nordic-style parliamentary democracy, dominated for decades by pro-NATO conservatives, “was shattered when the country went bust in the 2008 financial crisis, pitching Iceland into its deepest crisis since full independence and the republic were declared in 1944″.
Since then Iceland has been afflicted by the same anti-establishment fervor that has swept the rest of the Western world in recent years.
“People here are angry and frustrated,” says Karl Blöndal, deputy editor of the center-right Morgunbladid. “In the minds of many voters, the Pirates are the only untainted party.”
The 2008 global financial crisis brought the once highflying economy to ruin, saved only by a $4.6 billion international bailout. Bankers went to jail, and a street protest movement was born which saw a resurgence after the Panama Papers were released.
The leak revealed an offshore company owned by the prime minister’s wife linked to one of Iceland’s collapsed banks. The conflict of interest led to demonstrations with thousands of protesters taking to the streets.
The Pirates are part of an international movement of the same name. In Iceland, their programmes include fishing quotas, a new take on online pornography and of course Snowden. Party leaders have offered him Icelandic citizenship.
But on whether Iceland should join the European Union, for instance, the Pirates have not taken a stand, insisting instead that the matter should be decided in a national referendum.
The Pirates started as a Swedish movement to counter digital copyright laws, and has proposed making the country “a digital safe haven” much like Switzerland is a haven to safe banking.
The first Pirate Party was founded ten years ago by Rick Falkvinge in Sweden. Since then, the idea has spread to other countries, including the UK, Germany, Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands.
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