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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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