Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Iceland's Pirate Party Edges toward Parliamentary Majority

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Iceland's Pirate Party Edges toward Parliamentary Majority

Article excerpt

The year 2016 has been marked by unprecedented elections and dissatisfaction with the democratic process. And while third parties have not thrived in the United States in this climate, they've had more success elsewhere.

In Iceland, the Pirate party is poised to win the parliamentary election on Saturday. Founded by a former WikiLeaks collaborator, the party's goal is to create a direct democracy for the digital age, one where policy ideas are crowdsourced online, drugs are legalized, power is put in the hands of the powerless, and Edward Snowden is offered asylum. For months, polls have been showing a Pirate victory as Iceland, still smarting from the 2008 economic crash and deeply distrustful of government, looks for something new.

"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 Jonsdottir, the party's leader, reported USA Today. "We do not define ourselves as left or right."

The Pirate Party was founded in 2006 by Swedish internet activist Richard Falkvinge, a Julian Assange-like figure, with the goal of ending internet copyright laws and using digital connectivity to launch renewed interest in civic engagement and hold governments accountable.

Growing in popularity among the online community of internet hackers, the party now has branches in more than 60 countries, but the 4-year-old Icelandic chapter would be the first with substantial legislative power.

The party won five percent of the vote in Iceland's 2013 election, earning them three seats in Parliament. Ms. Jonsdottir, who holds one of them, said that her time in Parliament has provided valuable training for the fledgling operation. Since then, support for the group has grown, and most polls over the last 18 months show the Pirate Party winning the majority of the vote, although the center-right Independence Party is also polling well.

So how did a nation with a population half the size of Boston, made up of traditionally conservative fishermen, end up supporting a radical left-wing party calling for a cyber-driven direct democracy?

Over the past 10 years, electoral control has flip-flopped between right wing and left wing governments, leading to a deep and pervasive distrust of the government, said Baldur [Thorn]orhallsson, a professor of political science at the University of Iceland.

"First the Icelandic people voted for the left and then the old- guard again - so who's left?" the professor asked NBC. "Many voters are not voting for internet freedom and drug decriminalization, they are protesting against the traditional parties."

In fact, the main idea driving the Pirate Party is not their platform but their push to reinvent government.

"We are determined to improve this democracy, which is both a major task and an exciting opportunity which has not presented itself for a long time," Gu[eth]jon Idir spokesperson for the party, told The Christian Science Monitor in September. …

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