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A pirate poet could become Iceland’s next prime minister—but she says she doesn’t want the job

Reuters/Sigtryggur Johannsson
Pirate queen.
By Jill Petzinger
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Since Iceland’s prime minister was forced out of office last week, after the Panama Papers revealed his offshore assets, the anti-establishment Pirate Party has emerged as a serious contender in the Icelandic political landscape—and that means newfound fame and scrutiny for party leader Birgitta Jonsdottir.

Even though the Pirates only have three seats in parliament, 43% of Iceland’s voters now support them, which could make them a force when the country holds elections this autumn.

In an attempt to contain the crisis last week, the government installed agriculture minister Sigurour Ingi Johannsson as interim prime minister. Jonsdottir and opposition parties demanded immediate elections but lost the no confidence motion in a parliamentary vote on Friday (April 8).

“It is not enough just to move heads in the cabinet and have the former PM carry on as the leader of the Progressive party and as shadow minister,” she said.

Before co-founding the Pirate Party in 2012, Jonsdottir worked for WikiLeaks, creating a legislative framework to protect investigative journalists and whistleblowers. She was instrumental in releasing a classified video showing a US military helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed 12 people, including two Reuters journalists.

If Jonsdottir were she to become prime minister, the 48-year-old lawmaker said her first job in office would be to push through a new Icelandic constitution. But she is deeply conflicted about whether she wants the job at all.

“Actually I had a nightmare about that a long time ago that I wrote down into a poem,” she told Reuters. Her party has campaigned on transparency and internet freedom, and also introduced a bill that would give Icelandic citizenship to US whistleblower Edward Snowden.

In another interview she said that being prime minister wasn’t her ideal job, but the if “nobody else can do it or wants to do it” she would take it on.

“She’d be very good for it,” Smári McCarthy, chairman of the European Pirate Party, told Quartz. “She’s the one with longest amount of experience, but she might be more interested in having a defining role in the adoption of the new constitution that has been delayed by this government.”

The Pirate Party’s rotating leadership structure means there’s also a possibility that MPs Helgi Hrafn Gunnarsson or Asta Helgadottir could be up for the position.

The pirates are realistic about the amount of work ahead if they end up running the country. “The Icelandic Pirate Party will not be able to solve all of the ingrown problems in Iceland but it will certainly be able to offer new hardware, complete with a new set of rules based on how we operate as a collective community,” the group said in a statement.

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