Panama Papers Scandal Could Launch Iceland’s Pirate Party to Power

In the wake of a post-leak power vacuum, the anti-establishment party is poised for a revolution.

Image by fdecomite via Wikimedia Commons

The Panama Papers, a massive leak of 11.5 million documents released over the weekend, exposed the secret offshore financial holdings of the global elite, including a number of world leaders, celebrities, and business people. The 2.6 terabyte data cache also revealed information about several sitting and former heads of state, including Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson. Gunnlaugsson resigned on Tuesday in the wake of public scrutiny over his wife’s offshore accounts—the first politician implicated in the scandal to fall.


Gunnlaugsson—incidentally, a third-place winner in a 2004 “sexiest man in Iceland” competition—came into power under promises of financial reform, making his shady holdings especially egregious. Though Gunnlaugsson was forced to walk the plank, it appears that Iceland is preparing to sail onward under the proudly billowing black flag of Iceland’s anti-establishment Pirate Party, part of an international movement championing democratic values and digital-age freedom of expression.

Birgitta Jónsdóttir. Image by Pirátská strana via Flickr

Birgitta Jónsdóttir, parliamentary chair of the organization, published an opinion piece in Newsweek Tuesday, calling for a new constitution for the Nordic country. Despite its offbeat name, it seems her cries for reform have legs: the Pirate Party surprised everyone last year when polls revealed it to be Iceland’s political frontrunner.

In her Newsweek piece, Jónsdóttir—also a poet, Wikileaks alumna, and current member of Iceland’s parliament—ripped into Gunnlaugsson, suggesting that her party was ready to take the reigns of power in the wake of the Panama Papers:

“The news report in Iceland on Sunday evening that detailed the scandal rocked Icelandic society in a similar way to how it was shaken in the wake of the financial crisis in 2008. At the time, Gunnlaugsson called the creditors of the failed banks ‘vultures,’ but as it turns out he could also have been talking about himself and his wife.”

Burn! Take that, Gunnlaugsson. Jónsdóttir went on to say:

“You can sense the anger among Icelanders. Thousands of people took part in protests outside the nation’s parliament last night … I joined these protests and I have announced that I will be standing for elections for the Pirate Party for a short term, where we will implement a new constitution and legalize it.”

As Jónsdóttir describes, as many as 10,000 of Iceland’s roughly 323,000 residents indeed took to the streets earlier this week, pelting Parliament with yogurt and eggs and demanding Gunnlaugsson’s resignation. (Apparently, the use of local dairy products in protest is a proud Icelandic tradition.)

Though the Prime Minister’s family’s offshore holdings weren’t in and of themselves illegal, the shell company that held those assets—called Wintris—held stakes in Icelandic banks that have been hurting since the 2008 financial crisis, which hit Iceland particularly hard. This means that actions Gunnlaugsson took in an official capacity regarding the nation’s banks posed a clear conflict of interest, although it’s not yet clear if he or his wife actually benefitted financially from decisions he made while in power.

This kind of financial chicanery in the country’s highest office is why Jónsdóttir and her party are calling for constitutional reforms. She writes:

The constitution [the Pirate Party] would implement was written by and for the people of Iceland in 2011 in response to the financial meltdown. It would include the separation of powers to prevent another economic collapse, while also reforming the way MPs are elected and judges are appointed. It is completely unacceptable that despite a referendum in 2012 that saw 67 percent of the electorate voting to put this new crowd-sourced constitution into law, it still hasn’t been.

The post-Panama Papers confusion—and ensuing power vacuum—may mean the Pirate Party is poised to take over. In January, The Independent reported that the party was polling as high as 37.8 percent—the highest of any political party in the nation. While it’s not totally clear whether those numbers will translate into parliamentary victories, the Pirate Party’s platform of direct democracy, transparency, humane drug policy, and equality might be exactly what the people of Iceland need in the face of scandal and Gunnlaugsson’s now-public impropriety. As for Jónsdóttir herself, it seems she could very well turn out to be the world’s first Pirate Prime Minister.

Articles

The Justice Department sent immigration judges a white nationalist blog post

The blog post was from an "anti-immigration hate website."

Attorney General William Barr via Wikimedia Commons

Department of Justice employees were stunned this week when the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) sent court employees a morning briefing that contained a link to a "news" item on VDare, a white nationalist website.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, VDare is an "anti-immigration hate website" that "regularly publishes articles by prominent white nationalists, race scientists and anti-Semites." The website was established in 1999 by its editor Peter Brimelow.

The morning briefing is distributed to all EOIR employees on a daily basis, including all 440 immigration judges across the U.S.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
via Smithfly.com

"Seventy percent of the Earth is covered with water, now you camp on it!" proudly declares Smithfly on the website for its new camping boat — the Shoal Tent.

Why have we waited so long for camping equipment that actually lets us sleep on the water? Because it's an awful idea, that's why.

Keep Reading Show less
Lifestyle

We've all felt lonely at some point in our lives. It's a human experience as universal as happiness, sadness or even hunger. But there's been a growing trend of studies and other evidence suggesting that Americans, and people in general, are feeling more lonely than ever.

It's easy to blame technology and the way our increasingly online lives have further isolated us from "real" human interactions. The Internet once held seemingly limitless promise for bringing us together but seems to be doing just the opposite.

Except that's apparently not true at all. A major study from Cigna on loneliness found that feelings of isolation and loneliness are on the rise amongst Americans but the numbers are nearly identical amongst those who use social media and those who don't. Perhaps more importantly, the study found five common traits amongst those who don't feel lonely.

Keep Reading Show less
Health

He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

He risked his life to leave a "historical record of our martyrdom."

via Yad Vashem and Archive of Modern Conflict, 2007

In September 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland. By April 1940, the gates closed on the Lodz Ghetto, the second largest in the country after Warsaw.

Throughout the war, over 210,000 people would be imprisoned in Lodz.

Among those held captive was Henryk Ross. He was a Jewish sports photographer before the Nazi invasion and worked for the the ghetto's Department of Statistics during the war. As part of his official job, he took identification photos of the prisoners and propaganda shots of Lodz' textile and leather factories.

Keep Reading Show less
Communities
WITI Milwaukee

Joey Grundl, a pizza delivery driver for a Domino's Pizza in Waldo, Wisconsin, is being hailed as a hero for noticing a kidnapped woman's subtle cry for help.

The delivery man was sent to a woman's house to deliver a pie when her ex-boyfriend, Dean Hoffman, opened the door. Grundl looked over his shoulder and saw a middle-aged woman with a black eye standing behind Hoffman. She appeared to be mouthing the words: "Call the police."

"I gave him his pizza and then I noticed behind him was his girlfriend," Grundl told WITI Milwaukee. "She pointed to a black eye that was quite visible. She mouthed the words, 'Call the police.'"

Keep Reading Show less
Good News