As part of a continuing series on the upcoming Icelandic elections, I take a look at the Pirate Party, who have come from narrowly entering the Althing (the Icelandic parliament) in 2013, to surging ahead in the opinion polls and possibly forming the next government.

Here, we’ll take a look at the Pirates brief history, why they’ve become so popular so soon, and what they stand for…


Birgitta Jonsdottir, current parliamentary leader of the Pirate Party


The Pirate Party was co-founded in November 2012, by several prominent Internet activists, and Birgitta Jónsdóttir, the current parliamentary party leader. Less than six months after their formation, the Pirates contested their first election, gaining 5.1% the vote, and winning three seats in the Althing.

However, the Pirates rose to national and international prominence after they surged in the polls, overtaking the Independence Party in March 2015. This surge was mainly at the expense of the other coalition party, the Progressives, and another opposition party, Bright Future.

Speaking to me in June, one of the Pirate Party’s MPs, Ásta Guðrún Helgadóttir said the reason behind the party’s success in the polls was “we’ve come clean as just being there to try and make the world a better place, not trying to seek power to rule.”

This, culminated with a dissatisfaction with some of the major parties, culminated in April this year, when the Panama Papers forced the Icelandic PM to take a ‘temporary leave of absence’. During this period of public outrage and amid calls for an immediate election, the Pirate Party surged to 43% in the polls – a level of support which would have seen them only a few seats short of a majority in the Althing.

However, in the months that followed, the Pirates’ support has dropped significantly, but still remains almost neck-and-neck with Independence in the race to be the largest party.


The Pirate Party’s core ideology is based on the protection of civil liberties and the transparency of information. They believe that:

  • Civil liberties must be guarded
  • Limits on freedom of expression are unacceptable, unless for the purpose of protecting the rights of individuals
  • All individuals have a right to privacy (which includes the right to be anonymous)
  • Information should be made available to the public in an easily accessible format
  • Everyone has an unlimited right to be involved in decisions related to their own affairs (also known as direct democracy)


Direct democracy and transparency

  • Will allow all citizens contribute to decision-making, and will provide public access to all information to scrutinise decisions

Fiscal policy

  • Improve the employment environment for small businesses
  • Support emerging companies to enter the internet economy


  • Guarantee that Iceland’s resources belong to the people and must not be sold off

European Union

  • Pirates would put EU membership to a binding referendum – it is not the role of political parties to take a position for or against membership

Drug policy

  • Adopt the Portuguese approach to drugs, which helps people with drug problems in a humane manner

Copyright law

  • Copyright has become a significant threat to free communication, regardless of whether they are doing something legal or illegal – laws on copyright need to change

Protections for citizens

  • Simply the maintenance system to provide to necessary recipients
  • Improve conditions in the private housing sector to ensure empty housing is available on the open market

Tomorrow, we look at the Left-Green Movement, which is currently third in polls and could be a major player in coalition talks…