5 things you should know about the Icelandic Pirate party

Nathanael Williams

As the Pirate party of Iceland prepares for power CommonSpace breaks down what you need to know about this Nordic rebellion

ICELAND’S pirate party looks likely to win or finish a close second as the country goes to the polls on Saturday, in the wake of popular anger over political corruption following the 2008 financial crisis and the Panama Papers scandal in April of this year.

The radical party, founded by hackers and campaigners four years ago as part of an international anti-copyright movement, got 5 per cent of the vote and three seats in the 2013 elections.

CommonSpace takes a look at their origins, ideas and policies and brings you five of the most important things to know about them.

Origins: How did they get to this point?

The wider Pirate movement was founded in Sweden a decade ago, spreading to other countries in Europe. But Iceland is the only nation where it has a seat in the government.

The Pirate party came to prominence after the Panama Papers leaks earlier this year which revealed that Iceland’s prime minister at the time of the leak, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, and his wife, had a secret offshore company in the British Virgin Islands.

After thousands of people took to the streets to demand Gunnlaugsson’s resignation the Pirate party’s poll numbers shot up to a peak of 43 per cent in April 2016.

How do they relate to Iceland’s economic crisis?

Iceland has seen a degree of economic recovery since the 2008 crash, when Iceland’s three biggest banks collapsed owing 11 times the country’s GDP. Reykjavík’s stock market fell 97 per cent and the value of the krona halved.

The country has since expereinced a tourism boom of 2.4 million visitors, nearly seven times the country’s population, expected by the end of 2017. Additionally, economic growth is predicted to reach 4.3 per cent this year, and unemployment has fallen to under 4 per cent.

Wild fluctuations in the Icelandic economy have both discredited the traditional political centre parties during the downturn and given confidence to a public eager for new political experiments during the upturn.

What are their policies?

Their manifesto features calls for a 35-hour working week, direct democracy, total drug decriminalisation, complete government transparency and making Bitcoin a fully recognised legal form of tender on par with the kroner.

The party also advocates offering asylum to US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Placing itself in defiance of what it calls “old definitions and old forms of government” the Pirate party has always claimed it is neither leftwing or rightwing. This anti-establishment message has connected with large sections of Iceland’s 320,000-strong population, especially those who are young.

Who leads them?

They don’t have a formal leader, but the poet and activist Birgitta Jónsdóttir MP is chair of the Pirate parliamentary group and is their defacto spokesperson. Before co-founding the party, 48 year-old Jónsdóttir, worked for Wikileaks as a legal adviser and helped Julian Assange release videos of US bombing of Iraqi civilians.

What are the parties prospects?

Following the Panama papers leak the Pirate party were polling at up to 43 per cent, while Mr Gunnlaugsson's Progressives, the dominant party in the current government coalition, fell to single digits.

In the last election the Pirate party won 3 out of the 63 seats available in the Althingi, the nation’s legislative body. This time around, analysts say it could win between 18 and 20 seats. This would put it in pole position to form a government at the head of a broad progressive alliance of up to five parties currently in opposition.

They have ruled out any possibility of forming a coalition with either of the current two ruling parties, the centre-right Independence party and centrist Progressive party, but are working on pre-election talks with parties such as the social democrats and the left alliance.

Pictures courtesy of Helgi Halldorsson, TEDx, G2ND0, Tom Burke and Screenpunk

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