Iceland Has Got a New Political Pirate Queen

The Evening Standard (London, England), April 6, 2016 | Go to article overview

Iceland Has Got a New Political Pirate Queen


THE Panama Papers could be about to cause a revolution in Iceland. The country's Prime Minister, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, stepped down last night after the leaked documents revealed that his family had sheltered money offshore and that he had undeclared financial interests in the banks that were bailed out. More than 20,000 protesters filled downtown Reykjavik on Monday (that's nearly 10 per cent of the country's population), throwing skyr yoghurt (it's a Nordic thing), chanting "cash out" and demanding radical change.

The minister of fisheries and agriculture, Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson, has taken over temporarily. While global commentators are calling on the country's famous export Bjork to step in, the favourite person to replace Gunnlaugsson is Birgitta Jonsdottir, aged 48, co-founder of the Pirate Party. Here's what you need to know about her.

When she was a teenager, she went on a school trip to see Iceland's Parliament building but couldn't be bothered to go in, staying on the coach and writing a poem about a nuclear holocaust instead. She never dreamed that she would go into politics but in 2009 she was elected to represent the Southwest constituency as part of the Citizen's Movement. In 2012 she was driven to co-found the Pirate Party with other internet activists. They have a crowdsourced manifesto and are part of the global movement of Pirate Parties.

She calls herself a "poetician". When she isn't planning a new world order she "looks holistically at art and poetry, bringing new perspectives". Her first book was published when she was 20 then she "dived into the internet and hasn't been out of there since". In 1996 she organised Iceland's first live stream on the internet. It was a poetry performance.

She says she "co-created the Icelandic Pirate Party as a circle, the circle of community". Since April 2015 they have consistently polled above all other Icelandic parties, with the same amount of support as the coalition government -- made up of the Independence Party and the Progressive party. They advocate a 35-hour working week, looser drug regulation and a rethink of copyright law. They pushed through a bill to grant Edward Snowden Icelandic citizenship in 2013. They have not taken an official position on the EU and they have a campaign to repeal Iceland's blasphemy laws, which began after the attacks on the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo. …

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