With the Icelandic election just days away, here is a closer look at the Pirate Party; one of the stranger parties in Icelandic politics and hoping to have a place in government for the first time.
The Pirate Party is a political party that rejects the left-right political spectrum and instead adopts a position of reconciliation. The party is fairly new to Icelandic politics and was formed in November 2012 by Birgitta Jónsdóttir, an activist and former MP for ‘The Movement’, and a number of Internet activists.
In the 2013 election, the Pirate Party managed to get just above the five percent of support required to enter parliament, obtaining 5.1% of the vote and gaining three seats in the Althing. The three MPs were the first ‘pirates’ to be elected to any national parliament.
Since entering the Althing, the Pirate Party have been vocal participants of Icelandic democracy, most notably in January 2015 when they successfully campaigned to repeal Iceland’s blasphemy laws in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shooting. The legislation the party introduced to repeal the 1940 law led to the legalisation of blasphemy in early July 2015.
During the Independence–Progressive coalition’s administration, the Pirate Party regularly polled ahead of all other political parties, with pollsters Fréttablaðið putting their support at 43% in the wake of the Panama Papers scandal. As a result, the party attracted international attention due to the prospect of a Pirate-led government, which would have been the first of its kind anywhere in the world.
In the election, the party more than doubled its share of the vote, achieving 14.5% and ten seats in parliament – becoming the third largest party. Since then, the Pirate Party’s support has waned slightly and Birgitta, the parliamentary leader of the party, announced her retirement from politics to resume her career as a poet. Currently, the party is being run with collective leadership.
The Pirate Party’s ideology is heavily influenced by a belief in direct democracy, protection of civil liberties, transparency, freedom of speech and information and Internet neutrality. They believe that limits on freedom of expression are unacceptable, unless for the purpose of protecting the rights of individuals, that individuals have a right to privacy, and that everyone has an unlimited right to be involved in decisions related to their own affairs. The party is also neutral on Iceland’s membership of the European Union
- Ensure that mental health is treated as important as physical health
- Provide greater support to those suffering from drug addiction, rather than being punished
- Build new affordable housing across the country to help those taking their first steps in life
- Prioritise the safety and rights of tenants
- Reform the student loan system to make sure they guarantee basic support
- Build more flats for students to provide more hosuing
- Create a new national art school
- Raise personal tax allowances* by 7,000kr (£50) within one month of taking office, with the goal of increasing the allowance by 26,000kr (£187) during the term to follow wage developments – this would take personal tax allowance close to 78,000kr (£560)
- *Personal tax allowances is a tax discount and is granted to all Icelandic citizens over 16
- Look into the prospect of providing an unconditional basic income to all citizens to provide greater support as technological advancement and automation grow
Rights for disabled people
- Introduce customisable personal assistance* nationwide and continue to work to improve the well-being of people with disabilities
- *Customisable personal assistance was a program launched in the Icelandic capital, Reykjavik, where disabled and elderly people received payment instead of services, allowing greater choice over their own care)
Justice for victims of sexual assault
- Improve the treatment of victims of sexual assault in consultation with those affected, including psychological and social support
- Work on prevention with extensive education on informed consent and personal rights
- Create a long-term plan for the organisation and structure of tourist services in conservation with local communities and reinvest income from tourism in infrastructure throughout the country
- Review fishing quotas to ensure recruitment in the industry whilst protecting the resource
Innovation, transport and industry
- Better connect the country with improved transport links and good internet, as good internet access helps businesses to thrive
- Encourage innovation by making the ability to start new businesses simpler and cheaper
Government, Constitution and citizenship
- Protect the right of journalists to provide information and protect them from legal proceedings
- Ensure government works with transparency and honesty as a guiding principle
- Create and introduce a new Constitution to eliminate secrecy and allowing the public to rule; the current Constitution provides unstable governance as ministers perform without consultation with the public
Tomorrow, I will take a look at the oldest political party in Iceland – the Progressive Party.