Iceland's Pirate Party Gains Ground in Election

The Pirate Party’s hacktivist politics have gained major ground in Iceland.

Oct 30 2016, 6:13pm

Image: Birgir Þór Harðarson

After near-constant exposure to the nausea-inducing dumpster fire that is the 2016 U.S. presidential race, it might be hard to grok that a movement of anti-establishment internet pirates has become one of the leading political parties of a small island nation.

And yet that's what's happening in right now in Iceland, where the hacktivist-inspired Pirate Party achieved significant victories in the country's parliamentary elections yesterday. Yesterday they won 14.5 percent of the popular vote, putting them in third place behind the center-right Independence Party and the Left-Green Movement, who won 29 percent and 15.9 percent of the vote respectively. (Earlier results showed them beating the Left-Green Movement for second place, but that changed as more votes were counted.)

It wasn't enough to seize majority control of the country as some polls for the extremely tight race were suggesting, but it was enough to win them 10 seats in the 63-seat parliament, up from the mere three they held after the 2013 elections. The formerly leading center-right Progressive Party, meanwhile, saw its seats drop by over half from 19 to eight, its dominance soundly trounced by the Pirates and the country's smaller left-leaning parties: Left-Green, Bright Future, and Social Democrats. In the wake of the news, Icelandic prime minister and progressive Party member Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson resigned Sunday.

First established in Sweden and led in Iceland by former Wikileaks volunteer Birgitta Jónsdóttir, the Pirate Party has been on the rise in the island nation of 330,000 ever since its economic collapse amidst the fallout of the 2008 financial crisis. The party gained a significant boost in support earlier this year during major protests following the Panama Papers tax haven scandals, which forced prime minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson to resign and triggered the current election.

Perhaps best known for anti-copyright activism inspired by government crackdowns on online filesharing, the anarchist-leaning Pirate Party has since expanded its platform to take on popular hacktivist issues, from digital rights and privacy to net neutrality and decentralization. Among other things, the Iceland Pirates have promised to end the war on drugs, establish a system of direct democracy, and grant asylum to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

"We do not define ourselves as left or right but rather as a party that focuses on the systems," Jónsdóttir told The Guardian in the lead-up to the election. "In other words, we consider ourselves hackers, so to speak, of our current outdated systems of government."