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The Pirate Party

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Fascinating political events in Iceland, where the conservative prime minister had to step down because of revelations in the Panama Papers about his tax avoidance. But the electorate doesn’t seem to trust the traditional left-of-center parties either because of its responsibility for the nation’s financial crisis. So what is the option? Something called The Pirate Party, which is likely to win the upcoming elections.

Making this political crisis even more historic is who stands to gain from it. The current center-right government coalition is thoroughly unpopular, but the main center-left Social Democratic Alliance and left-wing Left-Green opposition parties were largely discredited from their disastrous handling of the economic recovery in the wake of the financial crisis. Consequently, the nascent Pirate Party—which you won’t be surprised to learn is intensely anti-establishment—has surged in the polls and is well-positioned to lead a new coalition after the next election.

The Pirates, who have small sister parties in other European nations, have proposed a radical experiment in government transparency, direct democracy, digital privacy, and copyright reform—a platform almost perfectly suited to take advantage of the disgust over the Panama Papers revelations. While the Pirates intentionally avoid placing themselves on the left-right political spectrum, many of their other policy planks, such as support for the welfare state and reform of drug laws, put them closer to those on the left. With polls showing their support over 30 percent, the Pirates would easily have the numbers to form a coalition with one or both of the two left-leaning opposition parties, meaning Iceland could be in for a dramatic shift in policy whenever elections eventually take place.

I suppose the upside here is that in a parliamentary system, there is a chance that if these people are actually competent, they could reframe the left side of the nation’s political spectrum and reinvigorate a more populist politics that means a real leftist challenge to corporations. That’s a big ask of course, because insurgent politics are often not actually good at running the day-to-day operations of government that matter a lot. Certainly something to follow anyway.

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  • Joe_JP

    Do they worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

    • Warren Terra

      Also, what is their position on ninjas?

      • LeeEsq

        Well we get our bottle of rum.

        • Morbo

          Your bottle of rum, too.

    • bexley

      Economists aren’t impressed by their support for the Gold Doubloon Standard.

  • No Longer Middle Aged Man

    I’m confident that even if the Pirates have to rely on Ralph Kiner for running the day-to-day operations of government, they will be more competent than an administration employing the likes of Ha-Ha Goodman and Broman Manley.

  • Nick Conway

    I won’t pretend to know a bunch about Icelandic politics, but I’ve always followed it a little bit, and one interesting thing is that since the election was announced the Pirates have dropped a bit in the polls, and the party that has surged is the “Left-Green Party”.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icelandic_parliamentary_election,_2016#Opinion_polls

    It may be that as an election actually approaches, Left-Wing voters will want a party that is a little more ideological than the Pirate party, and that the Left-Green party is less discredited than the Social Democrats since they were a junior coalition member rather than the leading party during the recovery. It would be pretty wild if they were able to squeak out a first-place victory, since their ideology is listed on wikipedia as “Democratic socialism, Euroscepticism, Eco-socialism, Feminism, and Pacifism.” Its tough to find an example of a more left-wing party winning an election in recent history.

    Also, I know there’s a lot of debate about whether switching to a proportional or parliamentary system would actually make a difference in left-wing politics. And people, including Erik, have made good arguments that it wouldn’t really help achieve left-wing goals compared to our current FPTP presidential system. But the one thing I think people are underestimating is how much more fun it is! I mean, a group called the Pirate party might win?? The Left-Greens??? These are some fun parties! Plus six-way elections are just crazyyyy

    • Joe_JP

      I’ve always followed it a little bit

      that’s more than many (most?) people

      • Nick Conway

        Yeah, but following it basically consists of checking the polls whenever an election is coming up. I’m just a poll junkie, It’s not like i actually know any of the ins and outs of the issues or why exactly the PM resigned recently.

        It’s fun to go on wikipedias national electoral calendar and check out what elections is coming up:
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_electoral_calendar_2016

        Australia should have an election this year or early next year as well, and Labor has just taken a lead there which is good news since the Conservatives got a big boost when the real sucky PM resigned and they put a more moderate guy in his place. Overall left-wing parties seem to be on a bit of a winning streak in world politics recently.

        EDIT: Also, in other international politics, Spain just announced a new election is going to come up in June. They’ve got their own far-left party that has a chance of coming in first-place, especially if they can secure an alliance with a smaller and much older far-left party.
        http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/04/world/europe/king-felipe-spain-dissolves-parliament-new-elections.html

        • kateislate

          The calendar is going to be exceptionally useful for my work, thank you!

        • RobertL

          Australia will almost certainly have an election on July 2. The PM is expected to visit the Governor-General and request an election on that date, either tomorrow or over the weekend.

          Normally, we elect half of our Senate each election. The lower house has 3 year terms and the Senate 6 year. The PM is expected to go for a double dissolution election this time, in which all senate seats are up for election.

          The PM can do this if the Senate has blocked a piece of legislation twice. The idea is that if a Senate is too obstructionist, it can be dissolved and we start over again.

          Double dissolutions are threatened every time a government has trouble passing legislation through the Senate, but rarely invoked. Because every senate seat is up for grabs, the % of votes needed to win a senate seat is half that of a normal half-senate election. This makes it easier for minor parties to win seats, so the government of the day may not improve their ability to pass legislation.

          In this case, there have been changes to the Senate voting rules to make it harder for the minor parties to win seats, so the Government feels safe in doing so.

          The last DD election was in 1987.

          • Nick Conway

            Interesting. I know Conservatives needed to piece together a majority in the Senate, have the smaller parties turned on them?

            Polls seem to show the conservatives dropping in support, is Turnbull calling an election because hes worried that the later it happens the larger the chance the Conservatives lose?
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Next_Australian_federal_election#Opinion_polls

    • Lurking Canadian

      It may be that as an election actually approaches, Left-Wing voters will want a party that is a little more ideological than the Pirate party, and that the Left-Green party is less discredited than the Social Democrats since they were a junior coalition member rather than the leading party during the recovery.

      A little more ideological or a little less freaky.

      I used to pay attention to provincial politics in Quebec, the rule of which has been traded between two parties (the Liberals and the Parti Quebecois) for the entirety of my life.

      Some years ago, the public grew disgusted with both of them, and an insurgent party called Action Democratique (ADQ), led by a kid (he was in his early thirties) named Mario Dumont began to surge in popularity, eventually reaching the level of offical opposition.

      The thing is, nobody seemed to be voting FOR ADQ, they were just voting AGAINST the other guys, and ADQ was the only other name on the list. Once ADQ got near the top, people took a real look at their platform and realized “Holy crap, we don’t want anything to do with these guys”, and their support collapsed to almost nothing.

      Now that I type this, it occurs to me that the ADQ platform, which was kind of crypto-libertarian, sounds a lot like the Pirate Party.

      • Nick Conway

        Yeah that sounds similar.

        Speaking of freaky parties, reminds me of the “Best Party” in Reykjavik, which was run by a comedian and had a catchy parody campaign song:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxBW4mPzv6E

        They were the largest party in the Reykjavik city council elections of 2010 and got their guy elected mayor, but by 2014 the party had dissolved, and most of the remnants joined the “Bright Future” party, which basically was a fairly standard center-left party. A few others joined the Pirate Party.

        But I think it’s really tough to try and form one of these weird “non-ideological” parties, because most issues do end up falling on the left-right spectrum in the end and you end up picking a side and inevitably become an ideological party.

  • LeeEsq

    The Pirate Party seems to have some rather confused wonky Vox like vibe to their politics. It really isn’t surprising that they support the welfare state because that is basically a requirement in most European countries. The other parts of their policy seem techno-libertarian and leave too much of a well-meaning but taste in my mouth. I have no idea what their position is on more traditional policy matters or government functions are.

    • AMK

      The TED Talks platform—Digital democracy! Politics from The Cloud!—is just guerrilla marketing for Kochites who think energy and heavy industry aren’t hip enough.

    • sharculese

      I don’t know how closely they’re linked, but the original Pirate Party, the Pirate Party of Sweden, is closely linked to the torrenting website Pirate Bay, and there’s a huge amount of “information wants to be free!” baked into their ethos.

      • LeeEsq

        The Pirate Party of Iceland seems to have broken off from Pirate Party International according to Wikipedia. They still seem to share the same ethos though. I’m unimpressed.

        • Philip

          I dunno if we can look down on them that much; I’d take that over what the conservative half of our country votes for any day.

        • The Dark Avenger

          Too much lash, not enough sodomy?

      • leftwingfox

        Yeah, that made me sit up and say “uh oh” as well.

        Unfortunately the bulk of the copyright debate these days seems to be split between “Corporate control of everything forever”, and “Copyright should be eliminated.” Neither of which is beneficial to the independent artists trying to make a living.

        I would love to see the time on held copyrights shortened dramatically, (Life of the creator +20 years is more than generous, fixed terms on corporate ownership, possible extension clauses for archival efforts), as well as increased clarification and protections for Fair Use and non-commercial distribution.

        Unfortunately, tinkering with copyright is less glamorous and less appealing than “free media for everyone!”

      • pseudalicious

        Cory Doctorow (sci-fi author, big into copyleft, “information wants to be free,” internet privacy, makerspaces, white-hat hacking, etc.) is a huuuge fan. I’ve just started reading his books and they’re endorsed big-time there.

  • Avast ye government swabs! Prepare to be boarded!

    • Ken

      Come to think of it, Iceland will be in a pretty good position to, um, influence shipping through the new Arctic Ocean routes, once the ice finishes melting.

      • ajay

        I think you may be confusing it with Greenland. Iceland is several hundred miles away from the Arctic Ocean.

        • Ken

          I was thinking of passage from the Atlantic through the GIUK gaps. But you have a point, after the warming the main centers of commerce may be around the shores of the Arctic, with little or no traffic to the uninhabitable supertropical zone south of 60N.

  • Arrrrr…

    • mikeSchilling

      I’m votin’ for me bucko, Long John Silver(R).

  • Merkwürdigliebe

    Disastrous handling of the recovery? I though it actually went quite well, all things considered and all other comparable countries weight.

  • Rob in CT

    But why is the Rum gone?

  • Sev

    Why it’s almost as though the political establishments in all of the western democracies are utterly discredited…

  • Bootsie

    They’re in Iceland, shouldn’t they call themselves the Viking Party?

    • mikeSchilling

      Only if they want to lose all the big ones.

  • gawaintheknight

    “Policy planks.”

    Good one.

  • JL

    Huh. There was a student in my grad program during my first year who dropped out and moved back to Iceland after he ran for parliament as a member of the Pirate Party, and, rather to his surprise, won. I wonder if he’s still in it and whether he’s moved up the ranks enough to have any interesting role in Pirate Party governance.

    • Camilla Highwater

      Probably an old sea dog by now. Invite him to come on here and spin us a yarn or two . . .

      • JL

        Hmm. This prompted me to do a bit of research. The Internet says that only three Pirate Party candidates were elected in 2013, and none were him (though one was someone sharing his last name, not that that’s rare in Iceland, who looks like he could be a brother or cousin). Grad student gossip isn’t always accurate? I feel so betrayed! However, the Internet did verify that he was a candidate and suggests that he came close to getting a seat, and I also found a tweet from 2014 from the MP who shares a last name/looks like he could be a relative, announcing that Former Grad Colleague had given his first speech before Parliament that day. So he’s some kind of Party figure, even if a less exciting one than I thought.

        • JBL

          “Sharing a last name” in Iceland usually means “having fathers with the same first name”; in particular, first cousins typically do not share last names.
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icelandic_name

          • JL

            Yeah, I realized at some time after my post that it wouldn’t make sense for cousins to have the same last name in Iceland. Might be brothers then. Or unrelated people who happen to have fathers who had the same first name and look enough alike that I could see them being brothers, who happen to both be notable figures in the Icelandic Pirate Party.

  • Richard Hershberger

    insurgent politics are often not actually good at running the day-to-day operations of government

    I think of the permanent secretaries from Yes, Minister. Those guys would eat insurgent politicians for lunch.

  • pseudonymous in nc

    If you’re a nation of 320,000 people then you can do stuff like elect the Pirate Party. (Better that than fucking up the banking system.)

    The major of Reykjavik between 2010 and 2014 was Jón Gnarr, who was elected as part of ‘the Best Party’, which he set up to satirise the established party. Again, you can do that in a small country.

    • Ken

      Didn’t Iceland basically tell the UK banks to go eat hákarl during the 2008 financial crisis?

      • COnrad

        Not really. The Iceland government told foreign depositors that it would only cover part of their losses when the Icelandic banks collapsed. But Icelandic depositors were fully covered. So the UK and Dutch governments stepped in, paid off their nationals and sent Iceland the bill. Iceland refused to pay which caused a diplomatic spat.

        However the administrators of the collapsed Icelandic banks did repay the Dutch and UK governments eventually, with the last payment made in January this year.

  • shah8

    Competence is a very insidious way to judge political order. It’s pretty easily subverted by anti-democratic technocrats.

    Doesn’t mean that it’s not a factor of course. But you talk about what they did wrong, specifically, or their bad attitude. Competence, though, tends to be this broad brush that damns without illustrating the speaker’s biases, so people should be careful of that.

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