Internet Party = Pirate Party?

Internet Party = Pirate Party?

There is plenty of precedent in rich countries with proportional representation for parties concentrating on digital civil rights.

The original, Swedish Pirateparteit, has preached civil rights, privacy, and opposition to restrictive IP laws since 2006. There are other prominentish pirate parties in Germany, Austria, Luxembourg, and the Czech Republic. While some of them have polled well between national elections, only a few have broken 1-2% on election day. The most successful pirate party ever was in Iceland. It pulled 5.1% of the vote last year.1

New Zealand even had a pirate party in the 2011 election, pulling 0.6% of the vote.

This kind of platform and branding looks like it would fit an “Internet Party” founded by a wealthy tech geek. When I first heard about the internet party, that is the direction I thought they were travelling. But a deal with Mana Maori, appointing a leftie-unionist as the leader, and running a Candidate Idol which did not from the outside seem to have a particular focus on digital rights issues, and I am a bit confused.

If they are going to preach anti-IP, anti-espionage, and digital rights, a middle-aged unionist doesn’t seem like the best fit. Nor do Hone Harawira, Annette Sykes, and John Minto, the other three Internet MANA candidates who have a reasonable shot at wining a seat in September. And nor do a good number of the crew from their candidate shortlist.

And the crowd-sourcing of the party’s platform – if genuine – may not provide much of a corrective. If the selection baises in choosing the crowd reflect the same inferences all the commentators are making about Laila Harre and the people are seeing in the candidate pool, then the group contributing to the crowd-sourced platform may also be dominated by leftie-unionists and Tino Rangatiratanga-sympathisers, rather than geeks.

This is tricky an early test for Harre. Can she and her crowd craft a platform that is true to the Internet Party’s Pirate Party roots, but still sound like the kind of stuff Laila would say? Not the easiest circle to square.

  • 1. To be sure, some Pirate Parties have scored better than this in elections for the European Parliament.

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Chris says:

Twenty two candidates for an internet party and none of them can offer up a halfway-decent selfie for their profile (although King Kapisi's pic illustrates the tremendous value of a pro-photographer and a dose of street cred)! Several of them look deeply suspicious of whatever device is being used to photographically imprison their soul (although being charitable that might give them bonus points on the anti-surveillance issue). No memes, no lolz, no cats. But most grimly, fewer than half of them mention one of: IP (other than as the Party acronym), surveillance, or the internet.

The common thread about the accessibility of democratic process in the Party is interesting. The use of technology to facilitate joining the Party and participating in the Party's policy making process could be a lesson to parties still struggling with online membership tools (not looking at any Labour Party in particular). And maybe that's what defines the "Internet" part of their name - less a Pirate Party, more a democratic mass-membership party powered by internet technologies.

Crafting that reality into a coherent policy offering will be where the mettle of the humans involved is put to the test. [Borgen sort of spoiler alert] The first few episodes of season three of Borgen do come to mind. There will need to be a moment when some of the excited throng of newly politically empowered members of the internet party are told their vision doesn't gel with where the Party is going to stake its ideological claim. Whether the disappointed will be those who came along for Dotcom or those who came along for Harre will be interesting to observe.

Rob Salmond says:

And maybe that's what defines the "Internet" part of their name - less a Pirate Party, more a democratic mass-membership party powered by internet technologies.

@Chris: Well, perhaps. Although if that is the case they will need (a) some members, and (b) some other way to distinguish themselves from every other party with any members!

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