In 2007, Halldór Auðar Svansson, 27, was working as a programmer in one of the main Icelandic banks, Kaupthing Bank. As a young professional, he was seduced by Kaupthing’s stated ambition to become one of the world’s top ten banks. Seven years later, Kaupthing Bank has collapsed and Svansson is the first Pirate to sit in a majority coalition, in the Icelandic capital city Reykjavik. I met him a few weeks after he took office. Among the consequences of the 2008 Icelandic financial crisis, two were particularly instrumental in Halldor’s decision to get involved in politics. The first one started with a joke. In 2010, the Best Party (a “joke party”) and its self-declared “anarcho-surrealist” leader, Jón Gnarr, won the Reykjavik municipality, a key position in the country’s political life. For Svansson, “2008 movements did actually change the way politics was done. The Best Party was a direct response to how people were disillusioned with the political system. It was a ‘parodic rebellion’, which turned out to be probably the best thing that could have happened to Reykjavik at that point.”
The second development that cemented Svansson’s decision to enter politics occurred three years later, in 2013, when three members of the Pirate Party were elected to the National Parliament only a few months after the Party was established. In the Pirates, Svansson found a party to which he could commit fully. He got involved at the grassroots level before running in the primary organised by the party ahead of the 2014 Reykjavik City Council elections.
He now intends to use his seat in the majority coalition of Reykjavik and his chairing of the municipal Committee on Administration and Democracy to instigate the changes he and his party have been calling for, especially regarding governance. “This is,” Svansson acknowledges, “a very interesting challenge for me and the Pirates in Iceland as well as for the Pirates as an international movement because we are pretty rebellious and we are trying very actively to change the system itself, to be critical of the establishment. Now we’re trying to do this from within the system.”