Following recent successes of the Finnish Pirate Party’s Bitcoin funding in the country’s 2015 election campaign, its Icelandic counterpart is now causing an even greater stir.
Pirate party rising
Iceland’s Píratar party, itself a spin-off of Sweden’s Pirates, has shot up in recent opinion polls, to the extent that, according to two recent surveys, they would even be the most popular party if elections were held today.
The dramatic shift in public taste in Iceland, which has had a right-of-center government for all but one term since World War Two, has clear implications for the status of disruptive instruments such as Bitcoin. Iceland became one of the few jurisdictions to ban digital currency outright in March 2014.
Now, with surprising yet groundbreaking changes in popular ideology in the country, the scope for change to occur could well become magnified in the run-up to the forthcoming general election in 2017.
“We, the people, are the system,” Píratar’s leader Birgitta Jónsdóttir began in a recent TEDx talk earlier this month, a remark evocative of the decentralized principles whose implications remain excluded from the Icelandic economy.
While commentators are unsure as to whether this spike in popularity of disruptive politics is a phase or part of a serious phenomenon, the figures to a large extent could be said to speak for themselves.
Prior to the polls by Gallup and MMR, which placed Píratar on 34% and 35% of the vote respectively, Icelandic newspaper Fréttablaðið calculated in March that if elections had been held at the time, the party would have secured 14 seats in parliament, making it the second largest represented group.
‘Switzerland of Bits’
While explicit policies regarding disruption in the banking system have yet to surface from Jónsdóttir or others, much has been stated in the press regarding the party’s desire to improve digital freedom.
In an interview with Vice last year, Jónsdóttir recalled meeting with Julian Assange to realize a vision of making Iceland the “Switzerland of bits,” tackling the “extraordinary pressure” faced by those who undertake “serious journalism” there. Jónsdóttir added during June’s TEDx session, saying:
“[…] My political aim and objective - a vision - was to make Iceland into a safe haven for freedom of information, expression and transparency with a really strong focus on digital privacy [...] and to put a really strong focus on 21st century legislation [...] There are very few people in parliaments which specialize in the day we live in.”