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No joke: Iceland’s Pirate Party surges into first place in the polls

By Stephen Wolf

Daily Kos

The Icelandic Pirate Party

Iceland has long been one of the more right-leaning Nordic countries. In contrast to Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden, which all have a long tradition of electing Social Democratic governments, Iceland’s parliament has been dominated by right-of-center parties for all but four years since World War II. The only break in that streak came in 2009, when the left won for the first time ever—and elected the world’s first openly gay head of state. The unusual result came about because the global financial meltdown hit Iceland with particular ferocity, but tradition seemingly reasserted itself four years later when the right-leaning Independence and Progressive parties regained power in a landslide.So it comes as a massive shock that the last few months of polling has shown the incumbent coalition hemorrhaging support not to the center-left Social Democrats or to the left-wing Left-Green Movement, but to the nascent Pirate Party, which has surged into the lead in public opinion polls due to dissatisfaction with the mainstream parties.

Indeed, a recent Gallup survey found the Pirate Party with the support of 34 percent of voters while another found them with 35 percent. That puts the Pirates ahead of the Independence and Progressive Parties’ combined support despite those two ruling-coalition partners winning 51 percent together just two years ago. That dramatic shift is illustrated in the bar chart below:

attribution: Daniel Donner

So what the heck is this “Pirate Party,” and why are they suddenly so popular? Head below the fold to learn more about this deeply unusual phenomenon.

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