Icelanders are casting apprehensive looks at two volcanoes this fall – a real one on the southern coast named Katla, and a metaphorical one also known as Althing or parliament in the capital – each of which has been rumbling ominously. The difference is that while Icelanders are unsure if and when Katla will blow, they know the exact date, Oct. 29, when the latter will erupt. That is the date of the next election for the 63-seat parliament. Although the election itself promises to be an orderly affair, the outcome does not, especially if the insurgent Pirate party, which is channeling the imminent explosion, has its way. For while Pirate parties are not unusual – such political groups started appearing in 2005, focused on digital rights and Internet-reliant democracy, and now exist in countries around the world – this once conservative Nordic nation is set to be the first to vote such a party into power. The Icelandic Pirate Party looks to garner just under a quarter of the vote, according to the latest Gallup poll, which would make them one of the two largest parties in the new parliament.
The prospect of a government shaped by direct-democracy, techno-utopian “Pirates” may seem at odds with Icelanders’ image as a nation of conservative fishermen. But born out of a broad frustration with mainstream politicians – particularly those who had a hand in the 2008 economic crash – and fed by Icelanders’ own somewhat absurdist spirit, the Icelandic Pirates are not as unusual a political champion as they may seem. And they fully intend to make the most of the chance.
“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,” says Gudjon Idir, spokesperson for the four-year-old party.