Show Notes and Podcast: The Order of the Pirate Unicorn Podcast 008
The Podcast for the Order of the Pirate Unicorn Mumble chat held on 7 June 2015 and recorded on 9 June.
Out of four invited Icelanders two where able to to make it – this was done with the knowledge that due to locality, connections might be difficult.
The situation is that the Pirate Party of Iceland has been doing very well in the polls recently and the Pirate Unicorn chatters held them to account for it.
They have been consistently polling between 8 to 11% since the elections in 2013 but the numbers started to climb sharply in February this year and have now reached 34.1% making them the strongest party in the country. Many people have been speculating over the cause. Their “basic policies” like transparency, direct democracy and fighting corruption are a big factor. This is very much in contrast to other Pirate Parties which are concentrating on Pirate core policies like copyright and patent reform and other IT related isues. While these are important they are not relevant to most voters who are worried about pay and job security. Protest voting is another factor but there are other parties that could attract this so there has to be something the Pirates are doing right that has not been identified. Previous Icelandic parties have had similar success but have quickly fallen away again. Also the demographic that draws the Pirate vote is one that tends not to vote. However there has been a recent study that puts the Pirates as an outrider to this trend.
Not only are they getting better polls their membership numbers are increasing rapidly from 1000 to 1700 and more applying. The party is working hard to make sure that all those who wish to be active have the opportunity to do so. This is a burden for party officials who are struggling to keep up. This growth is also having an effect on the elected members in parliament and the city council. Every time a new poll result comes out they are inundated by the press with requests for explanations which are usually met with astonishment as the reporters questions are the first they hear of it. We have to think that these representatives are pulling 16 hour days at the moment. PPIS keep expecting to the numbers to go down again – but they don’t.
Another factor is the government parties have been handling the business of government badly and have been evasive in their responses to the public’s questions whereas the Pirates have been painstakingly transparent in all things positive and negative. There have been some attacks on the Pirates like one paper accusing them of being the poorest at attending committee meetings and it is true the statistics back it up. However the fact that many of these meetings are held concurrently and with only three MPs the Pirates have no chance of attending them all. The story was so blatantly out of order that the leader of another party spoke up in outrage. In another case a minister accused the Pirates of being associated with organised crime – his proof – the name “pirat”. The Pirate leadership is now on tenterhooks as any misstep will be pounced on by the press.
A question as to whether there are enough volunteers in the party to handle the work load was met with a resounding no. This would apply to all Pirate Parties but the situation there is acute. This is due to a lack of resources more than a lack willingness but they really need some full time staff.
It was announced that there would be a surprise special sitting of the Parliament that night to debate a bill on the easing of capital controls – this passed. There is some question as to whether they think the expected improvement in the economy as a result would lead to the populace forgetting what they have been up to by the next election. The fact that their promises at the last election were so unrealistic makes it unlikely the voters would get a mass attack of selective amnesia. They are riding roughshod over democratic and parliamentary processes like their withdrawing from accession talks to the EU and the second largest petition in the countries history is asking the president not to sign a bill relating to the allocation of fishing quotas in which the county’s commons are being parceled out without any compensation for the country itself. The popularity of the Prime Minister is well under 10%.
Currently three people ware doing secretariat work – by hand and part time – they are not able to keep up. Relying on donations from a population who are under severe financial strain is unrealistic. By law they cannot get help from foreigners unless they live in Iceland and have the right to vote. However it is not only administrative work that is needed – they need to work on policies so they can present themselves as a credible party for government and develop processes for MPs who need to be trained quickly on how to do a new job. They have not even considered who they might go into coalition with – they only have said they will support any good idea. Working with either of the two current government parties would not be possible.
There have been proposals that they team up with another party to push through ratification of the famous crowd-sourced constitution with some minor amendments and some changes to parliamentary procedures and changes to the rules around general elections. This would mean the immediate recess of parliament and new elections.
There was a call from a government MP for an all women parliament for two years up to 2017 to sort out the countries problems. Our pirate reacted with doubt that it would happen but is is not the worst idea they have heard. However an all woman parliament day might be possible.
What if elections were called, if say the President dismissed parliament? There would have to be elections within 45 days. It is unlikely that the government itself would resign as one of the parties would be wiped out. But if it happened then the Pirate Party would be totally unprepared for the election and possible government. That said, they were not really prepared for their last two elections. 2016 would be possible but not in 2015 and they would have to spend the rest of this year in preparation for a 2016 vote.
There is a plan afoot for the Pirates of the world to assist PPIS by setting up a think tank with paid staff in Iceland. These people would be able to work on policies and other things that would be of benefit to the Icelandic Pirates. It would also focus on policies and philosophies that have not been tackled by Pirates up to now e.g. not related to Information Technology. The think tank staff would be able to volunteer for administrative work extra to their think tank duties. Another thing is that once in government, policy development tends to slow down. A think tank would ameliorate this. This resource would also be available to other Pirate Parties.
Funding needs to be from two streams internal to the Pirate Party and outside the country it would require specialised paid specialists to handle the funding needed. The idea of getting people to subscribe is favoured as this means an ongoing and even growing source of income.
Another thing that would result from a Pirate led government would be the full implementation of the IMMI package which has been put on ice by the current government. However Iceland is still one of the best places for data storage as foreign complainants find it difficult to find lawyers who have better things to do generally. Edward Snowden would be made a citizen by a special act of parliament. Also for anyone planning a trip to Iceland in the next few weeks the threatened general strike has dissipated for the time being.
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