Direct Democracy Pirate Party in Iceland

In the summer of 2015 the Pirate Party grew from three members of parliament who have a hacker background (including Brigitta Jonsdottir and 25-year old Asta Helgadottir) to being the leader in national polls predicted to lead the next government. Jonsdottir explained, “I definitely approach this job from the perspective of the hacker…. It’s better to pretend you don’t know the limitations, so you can break them.”[i] She explained, “People should not allow themselves to believe that we are going to save them. They are going to save themselves, and we’ll give them the tools to do it. We want to look for the wisdom of the masses…through collective effort.” She added, “Young people in particular find it unacceptable that they can only wield influence once every four years.” She is proud that many young Icelanders are actively engaged in politics. Helgadottir worked for a tech collective, describes herself as a “boring Harry Potter fan,” whose hero is the British Suffragettes. The third member, Helgi Gunnarsson, age 35, said his hero is Edward Snowden.

Their Core Policy advocates for increased direct democracy as in e-democracy and referendums, the right to privacy and freedom of information (they passed the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative which attracted young people like Helgadottir to the party), and putting a new constitution into practice and stabilizing the currency.[ii] Their website states, “Pirates believe that centralization needs to be reduced in all areas and democracy needs to be promoted in all the forms that are available.” The website encourages people to vote on the current political issues. The international party began in Sweden to fight for freedom of information. Their office includes posters for the film V for Vendetta and “Free Chelsea Manning.”

. Pirate member of parliament Brigitta Jonsdottir observed, “Disparate international movements are all energizing the same demographics, including a disenfranchised new generation with an appetite for a different kind of politics, and other groups who feel excluded and ignored, including ethnic minorities, people in low-wage jobs, and the disabled and elderly.”[iii] She mentioned her Pirate Party and socialists Jeremy Corbyn in the UK and Bernie Sanders in the US as helping to develop a “collective vision” for the kind of world we want to live in. She warned that direct democracy is not a panacea, as evidenced in referendums in Switzerland that prohibited building new Muslim minarets and limited the number of immigrants. The Pirates do not have a pyramid power structure with leaders; “We see it as a circle of power, where roles and responsibilities rotate.” As the party gets larger, they study other horizontal movements organize as they expand.


[i] John Rogers, “Hacking Politics: An In-Depth Look At Iceland’s Pirate Party,” Grapevine Magazine, November 19, 2015.



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