With the Icelandic Pirates crushing it in the polls and set to form the next government of a sovereign, carbon-neutral, strategically located nation, it's worth asking how a party whose two issues — internet freedom and copyright reform — are wonky, minority interests rose to prominence.
The answer is a combination of the contemptuous, naked corruption of the Icelandic establishment — the people who helped destroy the world's economy — and the Pirates' flexibility, frankness and basic decency.
The Pirates have already made their presence felt, proposing the successful repeal of Iceland's blasphemy laws (though an attempt to have formal asylum offered to the US whistleblower Edward Snowden didn't get through). Aevarsdóttir ascribes their popularity to the credibility built by "three great parliamentarians", as well as "the bombshell" of the Panama Papers in April 2016. Contained in the 11.5 million leaked documents was information about the Icelandic prime minister's financial affairs, which resulted in his resignation. After that, the Pirates polled at 43 per cent – 14 points higher than the governing Independence and Progressive Parties combined.
"There's been one scandal after another," she says, "and this government has, in my view, been so incredibly disrespectful to the voters. It's so obvious that they're working for special interests. They've even stopped hiding it." She complains of how "the highest tax authority in the country" – the finance minister, Bjarni Benediktsson – was named in the Panama Papers.
The Pirates' internet-friendly message may have appealed initially to young people, but recent polls suggest that nearly half of the country now supports them. Their straightforwardness, allied to the speed with which new ideas can take hold in a small community, has secured their rise, Aevarsdóttir argues. "Not to take yourself too seriously and to be willing to admit mistakes: this is a really important part of why we've had so much traction."
How internet pirates became a political force in Iceland
[Scott Oliver/New Statesman]
(via Naked Capitalism)