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Radical Pirate Party ahead in the polls days before Icelandic election

As Iceland prepares to go to the polls for its Parliamentary elections on Saturday, a radical pirate party, made up of hackers and activists, is ahead in the polls.

The country’s once-fringe Pirate Party is led by a former WikiLeaks spokesperson, and has managed to gain widespread support following perceived political corruption after the Panama Papers scandal in April.

Ony four years old, the party favours direct democracy, absolute government transparency, decriminalising drugs, and asylum for Edward Snowden.

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In Iceland’s last election in 2013, the Pirate Party captured 5% of the vote, gaining three seats in the 63-member parliament, the Althingi.

But now, just days before the election, analysts are saying the group could gain 18 to 20 seats, which would allow it to form a government as part of an alliance of up to five parties currently in opposition.

Led by 49-year-old feminist MP Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a poet, artist and former WikiLeaks collaborator who says she won’t take the position of Prime Minister if the group wins, the party has gained popular support with its anti-establishment message.

Birgitta JónsdóttirBirgitta Jónsdóttir

The party leader has said: “People sense that we stand for enacting changes that have to do with reforming the systems, rather than changing minor things that might easily be changed back.

“Our policies therefore stand in stark contrast to what appears to be the pattern of modern politics; minor changes but always the same dysfunctional system.”

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During a recent Reddit AMA, parliamentary candidate Smári McCarthy said: “We’re called the Pirate party in reference to a global movement of Pirate parties that popped up over the last decade.

“Despite our name, we’re taken fairly seriously in Iceland, in particular because of our very aggressive anti-corruption stance, our pro-transparency work, and our general push in the direction of a more information-driven society with strong civil liberties.”

A poll last week showed the Pirates, which want to introduce a new, crowdsourced national constitution, on nearly 21% of the vote.

That means if the Pirates formed an alliance with the Left-Green party, currently on 19%, the group would just need 10 points to form a majority.

The upcoming election will be held as a result of prime minister Sigmundur Davið Gunnlaugsson resigning following revelations, uncovered by the Panama Papers, that he and his wife kept millions of pounds of family money offshore – sparking outrage among the country’s 320,000-strong population.

The fallout from the 2008 financial crash, which hit Iceland particularly hard, has also helped to foster anti-governement sentiment among the Icelandic public.

Ahead of Saturday’s election, Jónsdóttir has said her party is open to forming a government with any party that supports “fundamental system change”.

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