The most fascinating and encouraging political movement occurring anywhere on earth at the moment is taking place in the tiny nation of Iceland. No, it has nothing to do with the recent resignation of the country’s Prime Minister after it was discovered via the Panama Papers that he and his wife owned Icelandic bank debt through an undisclosed offshore vehicle. What I’m referring to is the exponential popularity of the less than four-year-old “Pirate Party.”
So what is the Pirate Party? Motherboard explains:
Over 20,000 protesters descended on the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik last week following the release of the Panama Papers, over 11 million files from the database of Mossack Fonseca, one the world’s largest offshore law firms. Gathered in front of the Icelandic Parliamentary building, the protesters were calling for the resignation of their prime minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson after the Panama Papers revealed that he and his wife had major financial conflict of interest tied up in a shell company in the British Virgin Islands.
On Tuesday, Gunnlaugsson bowed to the will of his constituency and appealed to Icelandic president Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson to sign for his release and hold a recall election. Gunnlaugsson’s request was denied and instead Grímsson requested Gunnlaugsson to resign and appointed Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, Gunnlaugsson’s deputy, as the new prime minister.
Many Icelanders have criticized this move as a meaningless political reshuffling, seeing as Gunnlaugsson is still retaining his position as chairman of the Progressive Party and a member of Parliament, and nearly two-thirds of Icelanders say they don’t trust the new government.
Still others saw this as nothing more than a political move meant to suppress the ascendancy of Iceland’s unlikely political champion: the Pirates.
Founded in 2012, the Icelandic Pirate Party was modeled after the Swedish organization of the same name founded six years earlier. An anti-establishment party founded on principles of direct democracy, copyright reform, and personal privacy, the Icelandic Pirate Party elected its first representatives to Parliament in 2013.
Sounds good to me.
In recent years, the Pirate Party has enjoyed an astounding level of popularity in the country, becoming the most popular political party in Iceland in early 2015. In the wake of the Panama Papers scandal the Party’s popularity has only increased, with a recent poll suggesting that 43 percent of the roughly 320,000 people that call Iceland home support the Pirates.
Although the Pirates have yet to name a candidate for prime minister, Helgadóttir expects the Party to put forth a nomination in the near future. She remains optimistic that the Pirates will have a solid base going into the elections and anticipates the party gaining several more seats in Parliament. Beyond that, said Helgadóttir, she and her colleagues are just taking things one day at a time, waiting to see how Iceland’s political drama unfolds.
“I’m really excited to see who is going to answer our call when we ask people to join us,” said Helgadóttir. “It’s going to be a real party, not just a political party. This is a chance to fix this broken democracy that we have and maybe it will survive this crisis that democracies all around the world are facing. We’re going to have so much fun together, and if [our agenda] goes through, democracy might have some hope in this world.”
And yes, there is a United States Pirate Party.
* * *