Pirate Party Iceland and Their Path to Popularity

Pirate Party Iceland and Their Path to Popularity

The Pirate Party Iceland (PPIS) was formed only 3.5 years ago. In 2013 three of their Pirates were elected into parliament (5.1%) and have, together with their party, now managed to shake up a nation. For the past year PPIS have consistently polled more than 30%, making them the most popular party in Iceland.

The Pirate Times has continually reported on the progress of the Pirate Party of Iceland. We take a historical look-back upon earlier articles to better describe how PPIS managed to get where they are today. Everything started with the founding of the Pirate Party Iceland, in November 2012.

NOV 2012 http://piratetimes.net/iceland-has-a-pirate-party/
On Saturday 24 November 2012 Icelandic Pirates voted their Pirate Party into existence. The Icelandic Member of Parliament (in a different party at that time), Birgitta Jónsdóttir, was elected as “Captain” by consensus, meaning the count of Pirate MP’s worldwide increased by one. The party’s structure is flat, meaning that the board meetings are open to all members – to quote Birgitta, “we have no leaders.”

“For me being a part of an international movement is a key factor. I believe that in the not too distant future the people of this planet will unite. Borders are increasingly becoming redundant, the Internet is connecting people worldwide and I believe that “the power” will be in the hands of the people and that we will be working together in how to best manage our societies through the Internet and that everybody will have a voice.” – Eva Þuríðardóttir, Pirate Party Iceland

The Icelandic Pirate Flag bears the symbol of a fish, the stockfish, which was used by Jørgen Jørgensen. Icelanders refer to Jørgensen as Jörundur hundadagakonungur: “Jørgen, the dog days King”. This is a reference to the time when the dog star(Sirius) is in the sky, on the flag he ordered Iceland to use in 1809 when he assumed power over the island. It symbolizes the spirit of independence and doggedness that the PPIS wishes to emulate. “We are a group, a patient people, so the Pirates are here to stay. “, said Bjorn Þór Jóhannesson

FEB 2013 http://piratetimes.net/the-pirate-world-2013/
With the addition of Pirate Party Iceland and others the count of Pirate Parties in the world totaled 64 Pirate Parties in 2013 “Currently there are more than 600.000 people following pirate parties around the world”. Today this number is much higher.

FEB 2013 http://piratetimes.net/icelands-pirate-party-leader-plans-risky-trip-to-usa/
The Pirate Party of Iceland’s Birgitta Jónsdóttir will travel to the USA early in April 2013, at great risk to her own liberty, to bring attention to the fact that whistle blower Bradley Manning has been held for over 1000 days without charge. The Icelandic government and her own lawyers have strongly advised her not to go but she says in her Icelandic blog: “I have decided that it is impossible to live my life in such a way that, as a member of parliament and of the electorate, I have to have such restrictions imposed on me so that I cannot enjoy the freedom to travel to a country that claims to be the land of the free” [Translated]

APR 2013 http://piratetimes.net/breaking-news-coup-in-iceland-pirate-party-is-in-control-of-parliament/
April Fools joke about the Icelandic Pirate Party taking over their government. Many internal jokes and references. “In a daring raid on the University of Iceland’s secret prisons, euphemistically called green houses, Björn Þór Jóhannesson managed to liberate all the Icelandic bananas.”

APR 2013 http://piratetimes.net/pirate-party-iceland-polling-at-7-8-with-17-days-left-until-elections/
With only 17 days left until the elections, the Pirate Party of Iceland reached 7.8% in the polls. “The future is in the hands of people who understand the Internet, and the future that it will create is beautiful.” – Jon Þór Olafsson.

how the pirate party of iceland rose to power a look at history

Andrew Reitemeyer took the plane and flew to Iceland to cover the elections for Pirate Times. Andrew reported both before and after the elections with the following four articles.

APR 2013 http://piratetimes.net/report-from-iceland-1/
April 25, On television the Pirates are coming over very well. Smári McCarthy represented the Pirates in a series of interviews with the party leaders (as PPIS has no leaders this was decided on a “who is available” basis). Despite being stressed and late to the studio he was able to deliver the best interview of all leaders. This resulted in a massive jump up in the polls for the Pirates. In a similar vein Hildur Sif Thorarensen, welfare specialist for the Pirates, did not recognize the Minister for Welfare in a panel she was a member of. A shot in the foot everyone thought – how could a welfare specialist fail to know who the minister was and be taken seriously? Well Hildur managed to get away with it, as her knowledge of the subject was shown to be deep and wide ranging as the program developed. She stole the show.

APR 2013 http://piratetimes.net/report-from-iceland-2/
The first Thursday after April 19th is the start of summer. It is a national holiday in Iceland. The city of Reykjavik was filled with happy smiles, and it was not only on the faces of the Pirates (as they thought about their polling figures showing 7.5%). Rick Falkvinge, the founder of the Pirate movement has arrived to be present at the historic moment when the first Pirate MP is elected to a national Parliament. Rick told the Pirate Times that he wants to make sure the event is recorded. When the first Swedish Pirate was elected to office they were so delirious with joy no one thought to pick up a camera. This will not be repeated.

APR 2013 http://piratetimes.net/iceland-report-3-final-campaigning-for-a-better-iceland/
The weather on election day was overcast and raining with an expected highest temperature of 8° C. The last leaflets had been printed and distributed along with some stickers and buttons. The final interviews on radio and television. The Pirate Times accompanied Smári McCarthy and Bjorn Þór Johannensson to the south coastal region for a radio interview. On the way we visited the banana plantation run by the agricultural university. We were allowed to bring some bananas to distribute to our Pirate friends and some rather astonished tourists. Birgitta headed off to do a last television interview and other Pirates went to talk to people on a one to one basis. (The reference today, to Iceland being a banana republic with the fruit being thrown at the parliament building, makes this report prophetic in a way)

PPIS adopted a song as a sort of theme song. It was by Cryptochrome and called “Cryptochrome Piracy“. Its lyrics goes like this:

“…this is some very human piracy
we’re pirates on land
we’re pirates in cyberspace
and we’re pirates at sea
we-realign this system like it should be
and re-empower each and every single one of us/
until we see that we are once again autonomous…
copy and paste this, take it away in your pirate spaceships, we piratize not privatize, come join the pirate party yo!..”

Of course Icelandic Pirates were attacked from the press which sometimes saw them as aliens! In one of those attacks Pirates have been accused of supporting the conspiracy theory that the world is being ruled by lizard like aliens. In response Birgitta said that she had written poems on chameleons and therefore the claim is correct and that she is, indeed, a lizard person!

Icelandic Pirates have developed something new in the field of direct democracy. A new web application will allow Icelanders to submit matters to the new parliament through their Pirate representatives whether they voted for them or not and even if they have no Pirate MPs in their constituency. Betra Ísland (Better Iceland) will let citizens raise matters of concern and these will be taken up by the Pirates in parliament. As one commenter said in response to a news article published online. “Not only do the Pirates keep their electoral promises, they do so before they are elected.”

APR 2013 http://piratetimes.net/iceland-report-4-history-made-by-a-hairs-breadth
Iceland is the first country to have Pirates having a say in the running of their country. It was a nail biting finish as the voting results changed through the night and the Icelandic Pirates swung from initial ecstasy to despair and disbelief and then to consternation as the numbers we being reported differently by the two main news outlets MBL and RÚV. Long after the victory party ended the Pirates left the Reykjavik Cafe with no certain result. It later became known that PPIS had attained 5.1% of the vote and gained the three so called “leveling seats” that are allocated on a national basis at the end of counting according to Torrentfreak. That is now the official result and the Icelandic Pirates have let out a collective sight of relief and some caught some sleep while others partied on or got down to preparing for the next stage…

MAY 2013 http://piratetimes.net/immi-introduction/
IMMI (International Modern Media Initiative) came out of the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, a project to take the best data protection laws from around the world and to implement them in Iceland. The new organisation has the same objective, it is just that the whole world is now the focus of implementation. (They are now fund raising if you have some cash to spare)

AUG 2013 http://piratetimes.net/icelandic-pirates-found-a-youth-wing/
This new youth organisation is called “Ungir Piratar”. The first board of the new organisation was elected: Stefán Vignir Skarphéðinsson, Elísabet Guðrúnar Jónsdóttir, Arnaldur Sigurðarson, Árni Þór Þorgeirsson and Andri Harðarson.

AUG 2013 http://piratetimes.net/icelands-parliament-viewer-keeping-track-of-politicians/
In the run up to the national election in Iceland one of the comments about the Pirate Party was that they were keeping their electoral promises before the elections had taken place. One of the reasons for this was the development of the Online Parliament Viewer or Alþingisrýnirinn, which is in line with the Pirate’s call for increased transparency

AUG 2013 http://piratetimes.net/the-game-of-politics-book-review/
If you have never read a book on politics before then this one, being easy to read and follow, is the one to start with. “The Game of Politics” – Pursuit of power over people game manual. Author: Jón Þór Ólafsson, one of the first three Pirates to be elected to a national parliament in Iceland in April 2013.

OCT 2013 http://piratetimes.net/birgitta-jonsdottirs-dream-for-a-model-iceland/
Birgitta Jónsdòttir addressed the Althingi, Iceland’s parliament, replying to the Prime Minister’s plan for the tiny nation and the ambition to make Iceland a better nation. She lauded his ambition but decried the fact that his vision was not based in reality and lacked the tools necessary to bring his plans to fruition. With an ironic twist, she compared his ideas to a children’s story and admitted to enjoying such poetry and adventure. She also said that his scenario was better suited to The Game of Thrones, whose characters face oblivion while engaging in power struggles, not a country that is dealing with inequality and discrimination, exploitation and corruption.

SEP 2013 http://piratetimes.net/solving-democracy-through-technology-introducing-wasa2il/
Pirates have been designing policies and software that have the aim of bringing citizen participation into politics – using technology and the internet as a platform. One of the new tools, building on ideas from Liquid Democracy, is Wasa2il. It is an open source project hosted in Github and used internally by the Pirate Party.

MAY 2014 http://piratetimes.net/icelandic-pirates-prepared-to-do-well-in-municipal-elections/
Pirate Member of the Icelandic Parliament Helgi Hrafn Gunnarson told the Pirate Times:
According to the polls we seem relatively sure of at least one person in four counties each with the possibility of two people in two of them. This is with the ever-present caveat that we tend to be over-represented in polls, since we appeal mostly to people who are easily reached by those conducting surveys, who incidentally are also the same demographic least likely to vote. So we’re cautiously optimistic.

Finally, the Pirate Party in Reykjavík received 5,9% in the elections and as a result entering the city council for the next four years, led by Halldór Auðar Svansson. The Pirates in Reykjanesbær received 2,5% and in Kópavogur 4%.

Pirates in Hafnarfjörður received 6,7% and were merely 5 votes away from entering the town council of Hafjarfjörður.

JUL 2014 http://piratetimes.net/protesting-parliament-bills-in-iceland-is-easy/
‘Öryggisventill’ is the Icelandic word for a safety valve and also an open source software tool created by the Icelandic Pirate Party. It provides a simple and secure way for citizens to register their disapproval (or approval) of any bill and motion in the Parliament during the current parliamentary term. With this safety valve the voters will be able “to let off a bit of steam” and also let their politicians know about it.

APR 2015 http://piratetimes.net/icelandic-pirates-ppis-vote-to-leave-ppi-and-birgitta-only-politician-to-increase-in-trust/
The leaders of the government coalition are in steep decline whereas the Pirate Captain, Birgitta Jónsdóttir, was the only politician to see an increase of trust by the people of Iceland, from 23.3% to 32.3%

MAY 2015 http://piratetimes.net/interview-with-a-german-pirate-living-in-iceland/
The Icelandic Pirate Party has reached over 30% in the current polls. We spoke to Simon, a Pirate who lives and studies in Iceland, to throw some light on the background to the Icelandic success-story.

JUN 2015 http://piratetimes.net/birgittas-jonsdottir-we-the-people-are-the-system/
Birgitta Jónsdóttir’s speech, ‘We, the People, are the System’, was delivered at the TEDx Reykjavik event. Birgitta tells us why the small island country of Iceland needs a Pirate led government. She also explains why the whole world needs Iceland to be the social laboratory where Pirate Principles can be put into practice.

SEP 2015 http://piratetimes.net/icelands-pirates-have-a-new-steering-committee/
The General Assembly elected a new steering committee consisting of Erna Ýr Öldudóttir, Þórhildur Sunna Ævarsdóttir, Gunnar Ingiberg Guðmundsson, Friðfinnur Finnbjörnsson, Olga Margrét Cilia and the two randomly allotted persons Unnar Örn Ólafsson and Halldóra Sigrún Ásgeirsdóttir. The new steering had two primary tasks to perform:

  1. To give the people a referendum to vote on whether they wish to join the EU. Current polling indicates they do not but that choice belongs to the people not the government which broke off negotiations without even informing parliament.
  2. To ratify the crowd sourced constitution after a few minor amendments. This would lead to the immediate dissolution of parliament and fresh elections. Something traditional parties would not do but the Pirate Party is not a traditional party.

OCT 2015 http://piratetimes.net/ppis-is-largest-party-on-iceland-for-6th-month/
If there were elections in Iceland today 34.6% of the population would vote for the Pirate Party. The pirate party is currently slightly larger than the two current government parties together. The Independence Party (24.4%) and the Progressive Party (10.1%) have a total support of 34.5% (0.1% less than the Pirate Party).

APR 2016 http://piratetimes.net/re-elections-looming-close-as-iceland-hits-a-political-scandal/
A summary of the events leading to the Panama Papers scandal on Iceland.

APR 2016 http://piratetimes.net/its-time-for-the-pirates/
If early elections are to be announced, then it will be a unique opportunity for the first ever Pirate government in the world to be elected. If PPIS get elected, it will trigger the electoral influence of many other pirate parties as a reliable transnational political movement.

APR 2016 http://piratetimes.net/the-schrodingers-prime-minister-of-iceland/
The state of the resignation of the Prime Minister was highly uncertain. News had reported that he had resigned and some hours later his office reported that Sigmundur Davið had not resigned. Pirate Times explains the poor communication from the government to the media.

APR 2016 http://piratetimes.net/pirate-party-iceland-polling-at-43-almost-a-majority/
After leading the polls for almost a year, the Pirate Party of Iceland has reached their highest result with 43% in the latest poll. This result would be a landslide victory over the current ruling government at 29.5% (7.9% + 21.6%).


This is in no manner a complete re-count of what the Pirate Party Iceland has done. Many essential pieces have not been reported. However, we believe this should give you a much deeper understanding for the Pirate Party Iceland and their progress over the past years.

Featured image: Copyright, used with permission, @asta_fish
image in article: Copyright, used with permission, @Arnaldtor