A party that favours direct democracy, complete government transparency, decriminalising drugs and offering asylum to Edward Snowden could form the next government in Iceland after the country goes to the polls on Saturday. Riding a wave of public anger at perceived political corruption in the wake of the 2008 financial crash and the Panama Papers scandal in April, Iceland’s Pirate party looks on course to either win or finish a close second. The radical party, founded by activists and hackers four years ago as part of an international anti-copyright movement, captured 5% of the vote in 2013 elections, winning three seats in Iceland’s 63-member parliament, the Althingi. 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.
The party’s leader and figurehead is Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a 49-year-old feminist MP, poet, artist and former WikiLeaks collaborator. Jónsdóttir says she has no ambition to be prime minister, pointing to the Pirate party’s horizontal structure. Rather, she wants to sweep away what she sees as Iceland’s dysfunctional system.
“People in Iceland are sick of corruption and nepotism,” she has said. She likens Iceland to a chilly North Atlantic version of Sicily, ruled by a few “mafia-style families” plus their friends, whom she nicknames “the Octopus”.
Of her political movement, she says: “We do not define ourselves as left or right but rather as a party that focuses on the systems. In other words, we consider ourselves hackers – so to speak – of our current outdated systems of government.”