Monday, January 13, 2014

Missing the obvious

The big political news of the weekend was that Kim Dotcom will be launching his new political party later this month. This has naturally led to speculation about exactly what this party will stand for, with the suggestion that it will be a largely personal vehicle which promote social libertarianism, but lean right. But all this speculation has missed something very obvious. Kim Dotcom's natural issues are state surveillance, civil rights and intellectual property reform. There is already an international model for a party based on these issues, with a local instance: the Pirate Party.

Pretty obviously, Dotcom wants to avoid that word - its poor branding when you're fighting extradition for enabling piracy, plus he has his own "Mega" brand he can leverage off as well. But the Pirate platform is a natural fit. So my expectation is that the Mega Party will largely be a pirated Pirate Party, perhaps with a dose of opposition to extradition treaties with the US thrown in.

(This will obviously be bad for Pirate Party New Zealand. Tough. They've tried and failed to win votes in that space for years. If Dotcom can do better, then good on him).

But while I'll be pleased to see a party pushing internet issues with greater visibility, it is a very narrow platform. In Germany, where the Piratenpartei Deutschland has successfully won seats in several state elections, they've discovered that its not enough, and that they have to take sides on other issues too. Which led to damaging infighting amongst a party which previously hadn't had to care where people stood on areas beyond their common digital ground. In Iceland (where they have 3 MPs in the 63 seat Althing) they've avoided that so far, largely by being willing to horse-trade and support other parties' policies in exchange for their own. while the undemocratic 5% threshold makes it unlikely that the Mega party will win seats, it will still be interesting to see what path it goes down.