Arrrr
October 26, 2016 9:41 PM   Subscribe

Iceland's Pirate Party looks likely to take the country's election next weekend - "If you're worn out and depressed with the US election campaign, ponder what's going on in Iceland for a moment. The country's Pirate Party, founded less than four years ago by a group of activists, anarchists, and hackers, is poised to upend Icelandic politics with an Oct. 29 general-election victory."
posted by kliuless (92 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
A pirate walks into a bar with an election in his pants, a peg leg and a parrot on his shoulder. The bartender says, "Hey, you've got an election in your pants." The pirate says, "Arrrr, I know. It's driving me nuts."
posted by storybored at 9:59 PM on October 26, 2016 [11 favorites]


Well, whatever was sacrificed on the altar of the Gods of Political Chaos last year, I guess they really liked it.

(Maybe advances in cloning and other reproductive technologies allowed someone to hit a super-combo? A goat fathered by a llama and born of a giraffe under an orange Harvest moon, or something like that?)
posted by XMLicious at 10:10 PM on October 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


Well, seeing as this is Iceland I can't say this sort of thing surprises me all too much.
Still cool, though!
posted by bigendian at 10:34 PM on October 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


A goat fathered by a llama and born of a giraffe under an orange Harvest moon, or something like that?

A supernormal stimulus for gods. I feel like there's a really good short story somewhere in there.
posted by NMcCoy at 10:41 PM on October 26, 2016 [5 favorites]


This seems like as good a place as any to mention that Pirate Party of Canada exists and is currently struggling to maintain membership minimums for official party status.
posted by mrjohnmuller at 11:16 PM on October 26, 2016


I'm super curious how the pirate party would be able to govern. I hear talk of putting everything to referenda, and I think of how badly the initiative process is abused in the western US and I can't imagine it turning out well. But then I hear that the Pirate Party let immigrants write the immigration plank of the party platform, and it sounds pretty progressive and worthwhile.
posted by Banknote of the year at 12:18 AM on October 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Pirates ..."Immigration Plank" ....this won't end well.
posted by boilermonster at 12:21 AM on October 27, 2016 [22 favorites]


Well, it's worth bearing in mind that Iceland's entire population is about 330,000 people. Like, we're talking about a whole nation with a population that, in many countries, would be considered "mid-sized town."
posted by DoctorFedora at 12:38 AM on October 27, 2016 [19 favorites]


I have been wondering whether there is any evidence of Russian intervention or interest in the Icelandic election. I imagine that the prospect must be tempting: Iceland is strategically located in the middle of the North Atlantic, allied with NATO and debating joining the EU, and there has been discussion of NATO using the Keflavík facility again. If they could get an anti-US/EU government in, it'd be a coup at least in constraining NATO's reach in the North Atlantic, if not undermining the Western/liberal bloc.

Have RT or Wikileaks said anything that might have bearing on the election?
posted by acb at 1:08 AM on October 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh no! The Pirate party has taken over Iceland! What's next, Santa Ana city council?
posted by Sys Rq at 1:34 AM on October 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


Like, we're talking about a whole nation with a population that, in many countries, would be considered "mid-sized town."

Alternatively the population of Pre-Dynastic Egypt, though. It's totally possible for political developments in a population that size to end up being pivotal on the grand scale and then go on to tediously bore students for millenia into the future.

Maybe Birgitta Jónsdóttir will be a Scorpion King type character in stories thousands of years from now, as an entertainment industry sifts through history for stuff to sex up.
posted by XMLicious at 1:37 AM on October 27, 2016 [31 favorites]


You have no idea how much I hope that winds up happening
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:15 AM on October 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


I am going to speculate that the rise of Icelandic women pirate politicians is the expected outcome for a country that likes to put its daughters through Pirate School.
posted by rongorongo at 2:21 AM on October 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Makes Corbyn and Momentum's victory in the UK 2020 election seem quite a modest turnaround. Stranger things have indeed happened.
posted by Coda Tronca at 2:38 AM on October 27, 2016


Meanwhile in the Netherlands, the 5 men who were the board of the Dutch Pirate Party quit and moved to an anti-immigration, anti-European right-wing Party because they were unhappy with the Pirate Party's leader (who happens to be a woman).
posted by blub at 2:49 AM on October 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


Iceland has a tenth of the population of Brooklyn. The point is it's not a bellwether for anything.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 3:47 AM on October 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


Santa Ana, as of the last census, has a population of 324,528. Iceland, as of 2013, has a population of 323,002.

I do believe that is the point.
posted by Fongotskilernie at 3:52 AM on October 27, 2016


It seems fairly significant news for Iceland. Which is far from being the smallest country in the world. And the political dynamics of small countries are obviously going to be different to large ones. That would be an interesting discussion. Oh there's just a few hundred thousand of them what does it matter is merely dismissive snark.
posted by SometimeNextMonth at 3:56 AM on October 27, 2016 [27 favorites]


Exactly. And it's got more citizens than Iceland. That is how significant this news is.

Yes, but is Santa Ana a member of the UN, Nato, Efta, Council of Europe, OECD?
posted by Mister Bijou at 3:58 AM on October 27, 2016 [24 favorites]


What Mister Bijou said. Not everything is determined by population size.
posted by kyrademon at 4:03 AM on October 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


Well since neither place is a member of the EU then I think we can all agree they deserve everything they get.
posted by Coda Tronca at 4:05 AM on October 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Does this mean I need to start looking for an eye patch for our upcoming July trip to Iceland?
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 4:17 AM on October 27, 2016


It's a highly developed, progressive nation state, a vocal member of international community, with long history, full of epic sagas, among them tales of discovery and settling of Greenland and America by Icelanders. I think it's a mistake to underestimate the place Iceland has in people's minds, and its influence on their imagination. On what they think might be possible from now on.
posted by hat_eater at 4:17 AM on October 27, 2016 [16 favorites]


A founder of the Icelandic Pirate Party and prime ministerial candidate, Smari McCarthy (A Pirate Who Goes After Corporate Criminal Ships)

Smári McCarthy: From the Panama Papers to the Pirate Party (YT)
posted by Mister Bijou at 4:25 AM on October 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


It also has the highest book publishing rate per capita in the world and productive film and music industries; for one, those 330,000 Icelanders are the entire Icelandic-speaking world, and have to support its culture themselves. There's a word in Icelandic for the glut of Icelandic books that comes out each year before Christmas; it translates as “Yule book flood”, and evokes annual floods of glacial meltwater.
posted by acb at 4:48 AM on October 27, 2016 [7 favorites]


Comparitive politics is one Thing. What strikes me is the 2:38 walkout. Love it because it transcends politics. It's about, about, well the way "it should be" as my mother and grandmother would say, grandma couldn't VOTE when she was 18.

Seems fitting to compare the last 100 years then a sliver in today's politics, dunno, comes to a certain point were history becomes replete, almost rudderless.

Time for new sagas.
posted by clavdivs at 5:00 AM on October 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


The problem is that good populists can very easily and very quickly become bad populists. And that a national parliament is in a very good position to ruin the livelihoods and lifestyles of all its citizens, in a way that a city government under a county government under a state government under a federal government isn't able to.

So it's not a trivial feelgood story. Both because it's not trivial, and because although it's possible it's good news, it deserves far more scrutiny than that before we can say it is.

In short: if you die in Iceland, you die in real life.
posted by ambrosen at 5:51 AM on October 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


Pro tip: a libertarian oasis should never require a plane or boat to travel to/from. You never want the markets to validate the safety requirements of how you get and leave there.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:58 AM on October 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


The term "Engineer's Disease" is thrown around a bunch. Yesterday it featured prominently the discussion of a vain non-engineer with some fairly malicious instincts.

Here we have a new party with a strong contingent of actual engineer types, with limited (or no?) government experience, promising grand sweeping changes (nationalize resources, crowdsource the constitution, rewriting rules for civic governance). I'd suggest if you think Engineer's Disease is a thing this might be considered a high-risk situation.

It's a small country where I don't live so I'm personally willing to watch the experiment from a distance. Some things they tried, like "let's use our sovereign status to become a nation of rich bankers," didn't work, while others, like "let's just ignore the IMF-style penalties for the banking experiment" worked surprisingly well.
posted by mark k at 6:15 AM on October 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


Where's Kattullus. I want the Kattullus Explainer on this
posted by Greg Nog at 6:36 AM on October 27, 2016 [7 favorites]


These are not engineers so much as tech savvy activists, including Birgitta Jónsdóttir and others involved with the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative. Any young party harbors some naive viewpoints, well ditto any young politician, but that's essential to progress. Also, the pirates will only be the largest coalition partner, but still less than half the governing coalition, so anything too drastic might need compromises.

Anyways, I'm hope the Icelandic pirates enact strong transparency legislation that helps avoid future financial collapses, etc. and provides a model for larger countries.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:53 AM on October 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


As I read through the fascinating linked articles in the post (thanks kliuless ), another quick international data point: Massachusetts has a Pirate Party, too.
posted by skye.dancer at 7:05 AM on October 27, 2016


looks like the techno-libertarians will finally get their floating off shore habitat.

1. making fishing allotments saleable on the "open market" could only result in the consolidation of fishing to a few owners.

2. referendums are perhaps the worst way of conducting "direct democracy", as California and Chile demonstrate.

but I imagine it could work out if some tech billionaire(s) decided they would like to control a NATO member country.

also, as a side note, the WashPost description of Iceland as being saved by a "bail out" is a nice example of how rigorously US media is thought-policed: no mention of imposed losses, devaluation, and criminal charges are described as subsidiary. The presumed election victory is a result of those criminal charges being shown to not be extensive enough.

the Pirates play at being political naifs but "electronic freedom" activism has connections to some very deep pockets with interesting agendas...
posted by ennui.bz at 7:06 AM on October 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Iceland's still too much of a Nordic-model welfare state to become a Randian dystopia within a few referenda, and not having a military, a Pinochet-style militarised transition to a free-market state would require an external invasion and occupation.
posted by acb at 7:13 AM on October 27, 2016 [5 favorites]


This week thus story, plus the women's strike for pay equity in Iceland, were the news items making me feel happy and like there is some good in the world.
posted by chapps at 7:40 AM on October 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


My friend, an elder feminist, went to Iceland recently and had arranged to meet a bunch of feminists through mutual friends. Over tea with one of them she asked what would happen for her if the Pirate Party won the election, and was surprised by the response: "well, I suppose I'll be Finance Minister"
Not just a party of young geek bros.
posted by chapps at 7:43 AM on October 27, 2016 [22 favorites]


Not just a party of young geek bros.

After the economic crisis, Iceland voted out the ruling neoliberals (the Independence Party, which had been as close to a natural party of government as one can imagine) and replaced them with the Left-Greens, then, when the economy hadn't completely unfucked itself by the next election, they voted the Left-Greens out and replaced them with the Independence Party, on a platform of bringing back the good old days of the financial boom and shiny new SUVs on cheap credit for everyone.

Maybe by the next election, when the Pirates fail to give Icelanders the moon on a stick, they'll vote them out and vote in some new alt-right techbro party whose logo is Pepe the Frog, and which is backed by Peter Thiel and/or Vladimir Putin.
posted by acb at 8:16 AM on October 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, using "boo to the techbros" narratives to discuss the Icelandic Pirate Party is... not particularly sound.

From what I've read, it seems like the most likely outcome is going to be government by a coalition of the left/leftish/radical/oddball parties (lemme see if I can remember them all off the top of my head... the parties in coalition talks are... the Pirates, the Left-Greens, the Social Democrats, and Bright Future (this last being a leftish liberalish group that evolved out of Jon Gnarr's Best Party).

To be fair, I have a total unabashed crush on Iceland — I didn't think it was possible to feel so strongly about an island — so definitely everything I say should be taken with a grain of salt. But, that proviso aside, I think maybe even people without crushes on Iceland should rely so heavily on the "Iceland is tiny! it's half the size of Seattle! It's like less than an eighth of Brooklyn!" line. Yes, Iceland is teensy, but it punches well above its weight in terms of cultural influence and international reputation. If "soft power" is a thing, Iceland's got more soft power per capita than anywhere else in the world.

(yes, okay, it's cheating to talk about Iceland in per capita terms. After all, they have the most Nobel Prize winners per capita, even though they've only won one Nobel Prize)

Also, well, not to belabor the obvious, but: it's sovereign. Because of this, experiments in government that Iceland undertakes are automatically more interesting and important than anything the Santa Ana city council could do.

We cannot directly draw lessons for what other countries should do from what Iceland does, because Iceland really is sui generis. But nevertheless Iceland shows us what a fantastically well-educated and generally decent group of people can do when they have power to run their own affairs.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 8:22 AM on October 27, 2016 [24 favorites]


Yeah, I think acb is right on this. Support for the Pirate Party isn't necessarily support for what they stand for, it's largely born out of frustration with and anger at the status quo, in much the same way that Trump and Brexit and other populist movements have been.

The Pirate Party is promising sweeping, fundamental changes but by its own admission is short on details of how they will be accomplished beyond vague sloganeering about sharing power. If they don't accomplish enough to satisfy the sentiment that brought them to power, they could very easily be replaced by something promising to be strong to do so.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:24 AM on October 27, 2016


A priori, I'd wager the pirates will wind up allying with the Green party, acb. In theory, a pirate party should be flexible on many traditional left-right issues, but younger parties like the Greens should be more amenable to the Pirate's agenda on issues like transparency, intellectual property, etc.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:26 AM on October 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


Well, they've ruled out any sort of coalition with the Independence Party and the Progressive Party, so the Greens, Bright Future and possibly a few smaller parties look like the only options.
posted by acb at 8:30 AM on October 27, 2016


Not just a party of young geek bros.

which is why the whole "techbro" criticism is a distraction. being a pig isn't a necessary requirement for being a libertarian and the history of the libertarians in the US shows there is a porous membrane that allows self described anarchists to move right, even female black clad ones...

Iceland's still too much of a Nordic-model welfare state to become a Randian dystopia within a few referenda, and not having a military, a Pinochet-style militarised transition to a free-market state would require an external invasion and occupation.

give them time. the point about referenda is that they are an objectively terrible tool for sane policy and easily exploited by powerful interests ie. California but also that they no guarantee of any degree of freedom see: Chile.

The health care system is clearly the biggest issue, outside of corruption, and it requires either austerity in other parts of the economy or a new source of foreign currency/ bubble economics. What deals will the coming government make for healthcare, based on what principles?

the fishing policy plank should be a warning.
posted by ennui.bz at 8:32 AM on October 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Just tell me the implications for Eurovision.
posted by delfin at 8:51 AM on October 27, 2016 [5 favorites]


Icelandic politics is so entertaining because the stakes are so low. Or maybe because the populace is so mellow, which amounts to the same thing.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:57 AM on October 27, 2016


After the economic crisis, Iceland voted out the ruling neoliberals (the Independence Party, which had been as close to a natural party of government as one can imagine) and replaced them with the Left-Greens, then, when the economy hadn't completely unfucked itself by the next election, they voted the Left-Greens out and replaced them with the Independence Party, on a platform of bringing back the good old days of the financial boom and shiny new SUVs on cheap credit for everyone.

These aren't wild swings by a fickle electorate. The Independence Party's share of the vote barely changed between 2009 (23.7%) and 2013 (26.7%). They only got back in power in 2013 via a coalition with the Progressive Party, which saw a surge in support in that election, while support for the governing Social Democratic/Left-Green coalition faltered badly (not surprisingly, given the enormous mess they had to deal with). The Independence Party's numbers this year are comparable to other post-crisis elections -- a little lower, sure, but that's to be expected given recent developments; the Progressives, who have also been implicated in corruption and tax evasion, are doing much worse. Meanwhile, the Pirate Party's share of this year's vote will likely be smaller than what the Independence Party got in 2009 despite their role in the financial crisis. If even that seems radical, well, people haven't been given much reason to trust the existing political establishment lately.

Or maybe because the populace is so mellow

You mean the populace that turned out for huge demonstrations that forced the government to resign in 2009, and then did the same thing again this year?
posted by Gerald Bostock at 12:10 PM on October 27, 2016 [11 favorites]


(Ugh, sorry for the phrasing on that last bit -- it's so easy to fall into one-upping rhetoric here without intending to.)
posted by Gerald Bostock at 12:19 PM on October 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


> Icelandic politics is so entertaining because the stakes are so low.

The stakes aren't low. 320,000 is not a small number of people.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:32 PM on October 27, 2016 [9 favorites]


the point about referenda is that they are... easily exploited by powerful interests i.e. California but also that they no guarantee of any degree of freedom see: Chile.

So - like basically every form of democratic process?
posted by atoxyl at 1:37 PM on October 27, 2016


Hello, I'm an Icelander. I'll try to give you a big picture of where things are at right now.

The big news in recent days is that the four left-leaning parties that currently form the opposition have agreed to form a government together, if they get a majority of seats in parliament. This is a fairly big development in Icelandic politics, but it needs a bunch of context for why that's any kind of news.

The first thing that people need to get their heads around in regards to Icelandic politics is that almost every party's is basically social democratic. The Pirate Party? Social democrats. The Left-Greens? Social democrats. Bright Future? Social democrats. The Social Democratic Alliance? You bet your ass they're social democrats. Even the spanking new right-wing party, Viðreisn, is made up of social democrats. The name means (don't giggle) re-erection (alright, it's okay to giggle). The name refers to an old coalition government made up of the right-wing Independence Party and the old, now defunct, Social Democratic Party (who weren't, funnily enough, social democrats... nah, I'm foolin', they were social democrats). Incidentally, until the nineties the Independence Party were also social democrats. Viðreisn are essentially the old social democratic wing of the Independence Party who've split from the mothership.

The Independence Party got a serious infection of neoliberalism and went a bit cultish. They haven't got better. Their current leader was implicated in the Panama Papers leak (and also, not joking, the Ashley Madison leak) but has held on to his post essentially because the various contenders to be next in line are all in the process of leaving politics because of a series of scandals, from financial to abuse of power. While they still have that neoliberal religion they're in some way being run as the political arm of a certain block of rich people. The leader is part of a family that has extensive business interests, and his cousins have been able to enrich themselves in somewhat shady, if probably legal, fashion, during his time as finance minister.

The Progressive Party, who were essentially agrarian socialists for most of their history, have been taken over by a different group of rich people. They were drifting ever deeper into rightwing populism during the leadership of the guy who had to resign as prime minister because his offshore assets were discovered in the Panama Papers. But the party still has strong social democratic wing, and the current leader is a lot more moderate than the former leader.

There are a bunch of smaller parties who are trying to get into parliament (the threshold is 5%), but they're all fairly unlikely to get in. Most of them are social democrats, even the racist parties.

So the ideological spectrum is fairly narrow. From that perspective it was rather unsurprising that the four left-leaning parties (Left-Greens, Pirates, Bright Future and Social Democratic Alliance) have pledged to form a government together if they get enough votes. Though in an Icelandic context it's pretty much unheard of for political parties to say who they want to form a government with before a vote. The main reason is simply that until the Independence Party contracted a case of neoliberalism, everybody basically agreed on the main points of domestic policy. Between 1945 and 1990, the big divisive issues were international affairs (including in that the US's military base). Since 1990 there has been an ideological sorting out along economic lines. The left-leaning parties favor more equality and a strengthening of the social welfare system. The Progressive and Independence Party are in favor of the status quo, and the Independence Party even in favor of more privatization of public services. Viðreisn will probably be a status quo party, though it's always a bit difficult to predict what new parties do.

As to the result... well, the Independence Party will probably end up biggest. 20-25% of the vote is enough. Until recently they used to get from about 33-45%. Three elections in a row with less than 30% is a new situation. Next biggest will be either the Pirate Party or the Left Greens. The Pirates could get anything from 15-25% but recent polls suggest they'll get around 20%. The Left-Greens have been polling in the high teens, but their trend line is very much upwards while the Priates are trending down. The leader of the Left-Greens, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, is also most popular when pollsters ask who people would like to see as the next prime minister.

Below that you have the Progressive Party and Viðreisn, hovering around 10%. And below them, polling between 6-9%, are the Social Democratic Alliance and Bright Future. Those latter two have no room for error. If they slip below 5%, they will not get any seats in parliament. That said, they are both pretty good about turning out their voters, so they should be okay. The ones that have had problems in the past turning out their voters are the Pirate Party, who have usually underperformed relative to their polls, but this time around they have a much more robust party structure.

My hope is that the four left-leaning parties will get a majority in parliament, but it's pretty much at a razor's edge according to the polls. A lot will depend on how Viðreisn does, as they might end up holding the balance of power. It's possible they might choose to re-erect the outgoing government of the Progressive Party and Independence Party.

If you have any further questions, I'll do my best to answer them.
posted by Kattullus at 1:44 PM on October 27, 2016 [82 favorites]


which is why the whole "techbro" criticism is a distraction. being a pig isn't a necessary requirement for being a libertarian

Though it certainly doesn't hurt.
posted by Naberius at 1:52 PM on October 27, 2016


You Can't Tip a Buick: (yes, okay, it's cheating to talk about Iceland in per capita terms. After all, they have the most Nobel Prize winners per capita, even though they've only won one Nobel Prize)

Actually, the it's not us, Faroe Islands, who also have one. Also ahead of us are St. Lucia, who have two, and a population of 185 thousand. And then there are Luxembourg and Sweden, who also outdo us in per capita Nobel Laureates.
posted by Kattullus at 1:52 PM on October 27, 2016 [5 favorites]


If the left wing parties do not win, then can't they simply add the pirates as a fifth minority partner? Is there some real disagreement between the pirates and some of the left -wing parties?
posted by jeffburdges at 1:53 PM on October 27, 2016


jeffburdges: If the left wing parties do not win, then can't they simply add the pirates as a fifth minority partner? Is there some real disagreement between the pirates and some of the left -wing parties?

The Icelandic Pirates are a left-wing party (though they don't like to describe themselves using the left-right labels). There's not much policy difference between them and the Social Democratic Alliance, nor the Left-Greens, nor Bright Future. The Pirate Party is one of the four parties that has pledged to form a government together if they get a majority in parliament.

Because there are some "wasted votes" due to small parties not getting past the 5% threshold, if the four left-wing parties get near to 50% of the total vote, that will translate to a solid-enough majority in parliament.
posted by Kattullus at 2:06 PM on October 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


The Pirates are one of the four left parties currently involved in talks.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:07 PM on October 27, 2016


Thank you Kattullus, I appreciate you taking the time to give us some context in the face of so much glib japery (which honestly, aligns to a lot of stereotypes about Americans and attitude /knowledge of overseas in a not-good way. Mocking another country's democracy makes you look foolish and ignorant).
posted by smoke at 2:08 PM on October 27, 2016 [11 favorites]


I thought they let one engineer do this in "The Mosquito Coast"... how well did that go again?
posted by Nanukthedog at 2:56 PM on October 27, 2016


Box office-$14,302,779 (Domestic)
posted by clavdivs at 3:48 PM on October 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


this is excellent. I'm going to be there for an hour and a half changing planes early on the 29th. I hope Keflavik has decorations.
posted by mollymillions at 4:06 PM on October 27, 2016


mark k: "Here we have a new party with a strong contingent of actual engineer types, with limited (or no?) government experience, promising grand sweeping changes (nationalize resources, crowdsource the constitution, rewriting rules for civic governance). I'd suggest if you think Engineer's Disease is a thing this might be considered a high-risk situation."

On the other hand Stephen Harper as leader of a long established party (sort of) along with a bunch of well seasoned cronies managed to drive Canada in a distinctly nu-Canadian direction; rewriting rules and flaunting legislative convention every step of the way for 10 years. In some ways seasoned political leaders are more dangerous than neophytes because they know how to get shit done given the power.

Luckily Iceland seems to have an engaged voter base that isn't afraid to act as a brake on undesired sweeping change.
posted by Mitheral at 6:18 PM on October 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


I still remain disappointed that the Pirate Party of Australia has yet to run a candidate in the seat of Batman.. At least the Sex Party always runs.
posted by daybeforetheday at 2:34 AM on October 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Back in June, I asked Metafilter how to follow the Icelandic presidential race, and csjc provided some helpful links to english resources. In case anyone here wanted to have a peek at them tomorrow. . . the main one is to the English Language Iceland Monitor.

At this momen the headline is "Is Iceland Headed for a Pirate Takeover?" but there is also down the page the enticing "Dunkin' Donuts make election doughnuts" which I enjoy for the different spelling in doughnut, if for nothing else!
posted by chapps at 2:15 PM on October 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


So, voting has been underway in Iceland since this morning and will continue until ten in the evening, local time. So far the big news is that turnout is down on what it was three and a half years ago, which had a historically low turnout. In the past, low turnout has been good news for the two right-wing parties currently in government.

It would still take an almighty polling error for them to even be close to retaining their majority (or if one or more left wing don't get past the 5% threshold) but it could mean that it would be easier for them to form a government with Viðreisn.

All that said, turnout could increase in the evening, so it's hard to say anything definitive while the vote is still ongoing.
posted by Kattullus at 10:23 AM on October 29, 2016 [8 favorites]


Turnout has picked up. As of six in the evening it had become broadly comparable to what it was at the same time in the last election. The latest numbers are from eight o'clock, and it still remains about the same. Note though that the last election had historically low turnout. Hopefully it'll pick up further in the last two hours of voting.
posted by Kattullus at 1:23 PM on October 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


Incidentally, if you want context for that, here's a chart of voter participation in Icelandic parliamentary elections since 1963. Until 1979 it never went below 90%, until 1999 it never went below 85%, but in 2013 it was 81.5%.

It was widely believed that there would be a very strong rebound this year in voter participation, but there's no evidence for that yet.
posted by Kattullus at 1:48 PM on October 29, 2016 [4 favorites]


Because crush on Iceland, I have trouble putting myself in the shoes of an Icelandic non-voter. Is there any sense of what motivates them to not vote? It's not as if the "they're all the same why bother" reason pertains in a country where there's a viable party for basically every decent political ideology...
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:06 PM on October 29, 2016


Well, there's a prevalent disdain for politicians, as in many if not most democracies these days. The main reason why many believed that the trend would be bucked this year was that there are three relatively new parties, Pirates, Bright Future and Viðreisn. All are considered fresh and untainted. But as far as RÚV, the Icelandic public broadcaster, can figure out the best that can be hoped for is about the same voter participation as last time, unless there's a late surge of voting in the last hour.

As to why... the honest answer is I don't know. My gut feeling is that Iceland is simply affected by the same forces that have caused lower turnout in many other nations, e.g. Germany and the UK (though this isn't a universal trend, for instance France is largely unaffected, I believe). As far as I've been able to figure out, there isn't any consensus for why voter turnout has declined in some democracies (my personal theory is that the collapse of the Soviet Union left a void where our imagined utopias used to be, see also "the singularity").

The way this has manifested itself in Iceland is an old idea that's called "fjórflokkurinn", which means "the quadriparty". What the quadriparty is supposed to be is the old order of politics in Iceland, which is one large right-wing party, one centrist rural party, one social democratic party, and one far-left party. It was first voiced in the early 80s and was a rhetorical trick by the leader of a new party to define that new party as a counterweight to the old order. It didn't really work, and this "fifth party" didn't last very long. However, there have been many many "fifth parties" before and since, sometimes more than one at a time in parliament. Also, the old Communist and Social Democratic parties ceased to be twenty years ago, but the idea of the quadriparty has gone from strength to strength. With it has come a wide distrust in elected officials ("they're all just as bad" being the refrain).

And if you think politicians are inherently untrustworthy, why would you go vote in an election?
posted by Kattullus at 3:10 PM on October 29, 2016 [4 favorites]


Well, the initial results are depressing. One caveat is that there can be quite a change yet because only about 25% of the vote has been counted. That said, here are the percentages so far (they won't add up to 100% because I won't mention the parties which don't get past the 5% threshold):

Independent Party: 30.3%
Left-Greens: 16.2%
Pirate Party: 13.5%
Progressive Party: 10.4%
Viðreisn: 10.1%
Bright Future: 7.3%
Social Democratic Alliance: 6.8%

What this means is that out of 63 members of parliament, the rightwing parties will have these MPs: Independent Party 21 MPs, Progressive Party 7 MPS, Viðreisn 6 MPs (for a total of 34 MPs).

The leftwing parties will have this many MPs: Left-Greens 11 MPs, Pirate Party, 9 MPs, Bright Future 5 MPs, Social Democratic Alliance 4 MPs (for a total of 29 MPs).

It's still uncertain what parties will form the government, but it seems most likely that there will be right-wing government.

I'm going to sleep now. I'm hoping that the final results will be a little bit more cheerful. Either way, I'm going to have a really good brunch in the morning.
posted by Kattullus at 5:13 PM on October 29, 2016 [8 favorites]


Thanks for keeping us updated, Kattullus.
posted by nangar at 5:42 PM on October 29, 2016


Here's the live results (in English) site from the news site shared earlier.
posted by chapps at 6:29 PM on October 29, 2016


Well, I wake up to pretty much the same situation. Here are the percentages:

Independent Party: 29.6%
Left-Greens: 16.2%
Pirate Party: 13.7%
Progressive Party: 11.7%
Viðreisn: 10.1%
Bright Future: 7.3%
Social Democratic Alliance: 5.9%

The Independence Party has 21 MPs, the Progressive Party 8 MPs, and Viðreisn has 6 MPs. If they form a government together they'll have 35 MPs.

The Left-Greens have 11 MPs, the Pirate Party has 9 MPs, Bright Future has 4 MPs, and the Social Democratic Alliance has 4 MPs. That's 28 MPs total.
posted by Kattullus at 11:43 PM on October 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


So it all comes down to what Viðreisn does.
posted by nangar at 2:45 AM on October 30, 2016


Pretty much, yeah, Viðreisn hold the balance of power.

Here are the final numbers.

Independence Party: 29.0%
Left-Greens: 15.9%
Pirate Party: 14.9%
Progressive Party: 11.5%
Viðreisn: 10.5%
Bright Future: 7.2%
Social Democratic Alliance: 5.7%

The right wing parties have the following number of MPs (63 total in parliament):

Independence Party 21 MPs
Progressive Party 8 MPs
Viðreisn 7 MPs

That's 36 in total.

The left wing parties have the following number of MPs:

Left-Greens 10 MPs
Pirate Party 10 MPs
Bright Future 4 MPs
Social Democratic Alliance 3 MPs

That's 27 in total.

As for what Viðreisn does, the leader of the party, who's the cousin of the leader of the Independence Party (because of course), said in a speech that he was skeptical about working with the Progressive Party because he considered it a split party. However, if the Progressive Party is split, it's probably six MPs vs two. So that would mean a functional majority of 34 MPs, which is reasonably stable. In theory Viðreisn and the Independence Party could form a government with one or more of the left-wing parties, but for various reasons that's fairly unlikely. I'd say it's more likely than not Iceland will end up with a right wing government.

It's funny, I looked at a few foreign news reports and it's clear that they had prepared for no other outcome than a Pirate Party victory. If we just look at it in terms of gain between elections, they went from three to ten MPs, which is a triumph. However, considering that in polls until a few months ago they were polling between 30-40%, it's a bitter disappointment. The reason for the collapse in support is probably not due to one reason, but the biggest is probably that the most popular politician in the party decided not to run. He said it was because he wanted to focus on building the party's infrastructure. But there had been lots of interpersonal trouble between the three MPs, to the point that they hired a workplace therapist. So it may have been burnout.

The Social Democratic Alliance, which has a popular sitting mayor in Reykjavík, lost all of its MPs in the city and its surrounding area. They got their MPs from the countryside. This is such a bad result that it might be the end of the party, or that it melds into one of the other left wing parties (Bright Future would be the obvious partner).

Bright Future did reasonably well, considering that the expectations were as of a few months ago that they wouldn't clear the 5% threshold. The Left Greens also did reasonably well, but slightly under expectations.

Viðreisn did phenomenally well, for a new party. They will certainly have a lot to say about the policies of the next government.

The Progressive Party did horribly, but only about as horribly as could be expected. They are even reasonably likely to be a part of the next government, which no one expected until maybe the last few days of the campaign.

The Independence Party emerges triumphant despite being led by Bjarni Benediktsson, a politician who was implicated in the Panama Papers and various other scandals. He will probably be the next prime minister. He might not last the whole four year term if more scandals come to light, scandals personal to him, or in his party or whichever parties he ends up forming a government with. Or he might end up surviving the next four years. Either way, this is a great personal victory for him even if the Independence Party is still in the doldrums considering their history.

This is far far far from the result I was hoping for. I'll have to think for a while about what happened before I have any kind of theory why. But I can say that I had a spectacular brunch which cheered me up quite a bit. And at least the openly racist parties got about zilch votes, so there's that.
posted by Kattullus at 3:50 AM on October 30, 2016 [12 favorites]


Okay, there's one unreserved bright spot. 30 out of 63 MPs will be women, or 47.6%, which is a record in Iceland and possibly in Europe. Yay for that!
posted by Kattullus at 5:23 AM on October 30, 2016 [8 favorites]


Another sad fact. Voter participation was 79.2%. That's the lowest turnout since 1933.
posted by Kattullus at 7:07 AM on October 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


Does this mean that IMMI is dead?
posted by acb at 9:22 AM on October 30, 2016



If the Independence Party want to salt the ground for the Pirates, the clever thing to do might be to establish a state-of-the-art mass-surveillance system. Send emissaries to Washington and London to seek a cooperation agreement (the UK might be better positioned to get involved, as the US is facing a transition itself), including NSA/GCHQ assistance in building a Utah/Cheltenham-style facility and drafting a mandatory surveillance law covering all internet exchanges and data centres, with the promise that the facility will have a thick dedicated fibre link to Fort Meade. Given that Iceland has been a hotbed of Pirates, Snowdenistas and other subversive troublemakers, such a programme could be sold to the US/UK as a swamp-draining exercise.
posted by acb at 9:22 AM on October 30, 2016


Viðreisn did phenomenally well, for a new party. They will certainly have a lot to say about the policies of the next government.

FT's take:
Asta Helgadottir, a Pirate MP, pointed out that neither of the past two governments involving Independence — the traditional party of power in Iceland — had lasted their full term. Benedikt Johannesson, head of Revival, said the lack of an obvious coalition “meant we need to think this over”. He had rejected the possibility of adding his party to the current coalition before the elections, not least as Independence and Progressives are anti-EU...

Iceland has little tradition of successful three-party coalitions and even four could be needed. Trust in parliament has fallen to some of the lowest levels in Europe after the financial crisis and Panama Papers.

The election results place a big responsibility on the newly elected president, Gudni Johannesson, to decide to whom to give the mandate to form a government.
posted by kliuless at 12:24 PM on October 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


So, one thing that's become clear over the course of the day is that there's no obvious way to form a government. The split in the Progressive Party seem worse than I had realised and Viðreisn seem genuinely vary of working with them. That said, mathematically it's the most obvious choice (and the leader of Viðreisn is an actuary by trade).

Another possibility that's been raised is that Viðreisn, the Independence Party and Bright Future form a government. The reason that's unlikely is that it would have a working majority of 32 MPs, or just one more than the opposition. Bright Future is the most centrist of the left wing parties, so that wouldn't be against their ideology.

There is still the possibility of a five party government (Left-Greens, Pirate Party, Viðreisn, Bright Future and Social Democratic Alliance) but Viðreisn have said that they are not interested in that possibility. However, due to the potential severity of the split in the Progressive Party, and declarations by the Left-Greens, Pirate Party and Social Democrats that they do not want to work with the Independence Party, it puts political limits on what government can be formed.

That said, if there's a genuine political crisis without a working government being formed for an extended period of time, there will be very strong pressure put on the parties to sway from their previous statements.
posted by Kattullus at 1:33 PM on October 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


The pressure will come from the President (who chooses who gets to lead negotiations to form a government), the media and the public. There isn't much appetite for a new election.
posted by Kattullus at 1:35 PM on October 30, 2016


If, say, the Pirates or Left-Greens joined a coalition with the Independence or Progressive Party, wouldn't they end up suffering the same fate as the UK Liberal Democrats or Australian Democrats, i.e., annihilated in subsequent elections for having committed the cardinal sin of betraying their constituency?
posted by acb at 2:14 PM on October 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, pretty much. And there are MPs in both parties who would probably be prepared to split from the party over that. And if they could be convinced to not do it right away, they would probably do it at some point during the term, potentially leading to a collapse of the government. Whichever left wing party joined with the Independence Party would almost certainly lose a very large portion of their votes in the next election.
posted by Kattullus at 12:14 AM on October 31, 2016 [1 favorite]


Brief coverage on today's Democracy Now! (at about 12:30, alt link, .torrent, transcript) focused on the advances of the Pirate Party and mentioned an ambition to pass "the world’s first crowdsourced constitution", perhaps related to things like the "immigration policy written by immigrants" in Boty's comment above.
posted by XMLicious at 12:25 PM on October 31, 2016


On today's (Nov. 1) Democracy Now! (at about 32:45, alt link, .torrent, transcript), a full interview with Birgitta Jónsdóttir.
...the parliaments in this world are so weak. They are governed and ruled by the executive branch. And that is a big problem with how we run our societies.
posted by XMLicious at 1:50 PM on November 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


As mentioned briefly in the interview, the Pirate Party has offered to take one for team and support a centrist coalition that doesn't include them. Iceland Review, Reykjavík Grapevine, Vísir [Google translate].

(Iceland Review translates Viðreisn's name as "Reform". Google has "raising" and "resettlement", and "brighter future" for Bright Future, a small centrist party. Google generally renders Icelandic as incomprehensible gibberish. But, apparently, Viðreisn isn't writing off the idea.)
posted by nangar at 9:02 AM on November 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Today the president gave the leader of the Independence Party permission to form a government. The way the constitution works the president gets to choose who leads discussions on forming a government. There's no set formula, but who's biggest, or has gained the most seats, is usually the thing that the president looks to. Weirdly enough we have the situation that a guy who became president because of the chaos caused by the Panama Papers-revelations is now giving a guy who was featured in said Panama Papers the opportunity to become prime minister. Funny ol' world.
posted by Kattullus at 12:21 PM on November 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


It looks like the Independence Party's attempt at forming a coalition has fallen through, and Iceland may have the world's first Pirate government yet.
posted by acb at 4:37 AM on November 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


Katrín Jakobsdóttir, the leader of the Left-Greens has been given permission to form a government by the president. She has said that she would prefer to form a government of the left wing parties and one of the centrist right-wing parties, probably Viðreisn.
posted by Kattullus at 6:05 AM on November 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


The Left-Greens' attempt to form a coalition has also failed. Katrín Jakobsdóttir told the president today that she was relinquishing her formal permission. The president has said that he is not giving anyone formal permission as of yet. The idea is to give the political parties a few days to think about what they've done the situation. Informal discussions are ongoing.

Note: The president's permission is a formality. If parties agree to form a majority government, the president will give permission.
posted by Kattullus at 6:12 AM on November 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


So, the president can call Katrín Jakobsdóttir back to try again if the parties agree to something? Is the Pirates' proposed centrist minority government still an option?
posted by nangar at 7:44 AM on November 25, 2016


It's sort of vice versa. If some parties agree, whoever will be prime minister will let the president know and will be given formal permission. It can be anyone, as long as a majority of MPs will support the government.

A minority government is still an option, but none of the other parties like the idea. There's no tradition of that in Iceland.

Meanwhile, parliament will convene soon, probably on Dec. 6th, whether there's a government coalition or not.
posted by Kattullus at 9:32 AM on November 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


Since it's nigh-certain that this post will close before a government is formed, let me give you a short update of where the seven parties in Parliament are at now, going from biggest to smallest.

The Independence Party seemed to be up shit creek after their attempt to form a government with Viðreisn and Bright Future collapsed. Now they're again more likely than not to end up in government. If so, their leader Bjarni Benediktsson (who was, let's not forget, named in the Panama Papers) is odds on favorite to become prime minister.

The Left-Greens looked very likely to be leading a government until talks broke down. They're still likely to end up in government, but Katrín Jakobsdóttir is probably not going to be prime minister. Her personal popularity, already higher than any other politician's, has increased, which is good for her party.

The Pirate Party has been normalised quite a lot by the process, both for good and ill. As of now, though this might change, considered more of a regular political party than they were before. During negotiations to form a government they proved more flexible than many believed. As they have said they will not join a government with the Independence Party, they are likely to continue to sit in opposition in the upcoming parliament.

The Progressive Party has been kept out of both attempts to form a government so far. Most parties, other than the Independence Party, are vary of joining them in government. The main reason is that the disgraced former prime minister, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, is still a member of parliament, and he brings a host of problems with him: The scandal, which he hasn't stopped constesting; he's considered a loose cannon; the threat of a split within the party if he manages to convince other Progressive MPs to follow his lead. They're unlikely to end up in government, but the Independence Party is quite keen to keep working with them. Also, since they have a moderate, social-democratic wing, it's not impossible they'd join a left-wing alliance, but the Pirate Party and Bright Future are both against it.

Viðreisn has been damaged quite a bit by the two failed rounds of negotiations they've now participated in. They presented themselves as a centre-right party with clear social democratic priorities. After the election they've zoomed quite far towards the economic neoliberal (i.e. libertarian but in a European way) end of things. One of their newly elected MPs declared that "taxes are violence" and they refused to support any kind of increased taxation, which is why the coalition talks led by the Left-Greens collapsed. Most of their vote came from people with centrist leanings, so this might hurt them a lot down the electoral road. Also, after the election they looked like kingmakers, now they'll be bit players in forming a new government, if they even take part.

Bright Future has barnacled onto Viðreisn. So unless they can be prised away from them, they'll probably end up in a government with Viðreisn, or together in opposition. Their agencey is a lot less, but on the other hand a block of eleven MPs (Viðreisn's seven plus BF's four) has more leverage than just four MPs. The leader, Óttarr Proppé retains his personal popularity, but like Viðreisn they've gone from being dead certain of being in government, to have their fate out of their own hands.

The Social Democratic Alliance hasn't been hurt, and hasn't seen it's fortunes much improved. On the whole that's probably a positive because when you've been sliding down, it's good to level out. The new leader of the party, Logi Már Einarsson, seems to be handling his role quite well. The Left-Greens would like to include The Social Democratic Alliance in any government they form, since they're closest to each other ideologically, so the fate of these two parties is probably going to be the same.

I'm not going to make any predictions for what will happen. One possibility is that the Independence Party forms a government with the Left-Greens and the Social Democratic Alliance (for a majority of 34 against an opposition of 29). If that happens a lot of contentious issues will probably be punted up the road and the different parties will take control of their most cherished issues, e.g. Independents will get the business portfolio, Left-Greens environment, and the Alliance social welfare.

Another possibility is that the current government, Independence Party and Progressive Party, will take on another party or two, most likely one or both of Viðreisn and Björt Framtíð (who have both said they're against that idea but the longer government negotiations drag on, the likelier it is that the parties will relent).

There is, of course, the possibility that either one of the two previous attempts will be restarted. As you've noticed, only one of these four possibilities includes The Pirate Party. Their big hope was that the now defunct Left-Green led talks. It's hard to see any other way for them to get into government. They are not very eager to work with either the Independence Party or the Progressive Party, and these parties return the sentiment. That said, as I said before, the longer this drags on, the improbable will become ever more likely to happen.

Thanks for your interest in Icelandic politics! It's been nice to be able to form my own thoughts into coherent shape and write it up here.
posted by Kattullus at 3:28 PM on November 26, 2016 [11 favorites]


I do love your Iceland explainers, Kattullus! Especially after my children became obsessed with the country because their favorite video game has Reykjavik in it (city! volcanoes! and ice!), and since I got interested in Jon Gnarr and the Best Party partly as a result. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:45 PM on November 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


« Older What kittens look like mid-pounce   |   GifCities! Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments