Pirates and the Principle of Politics

   Apr 10, 2024     3 min read

On November 8, 2017, the formation of the government was wide open, according to the outgoing Prime Minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir. This was after the Progressive Party broke off government formation talks with the Left-Green Movement, the Social Democratic Alliance, the Pirates, and the Progressive Party. These parties had a very slim majority of one parliamentary seat. The Pirate Party’s suggestions to bring more parties on board to form a more stable majority were rejected, and eventually, the talks themselves were ended. All parties need to make compromises, said the outgoing Prime Minister.

The Pirates were not slow to compromise. An agreement had been reached on the demands of the Pirates, for example, regarding completing the constitution within the electoral term. We were satisfied with our issues when the talks were terminated. So, it was not some unrealistic demands from our side that precluded a coalition of these parties. It seems more like the Progressive Party suddenly learned how to count and realized that a one-person majority was not acceptable. This is the party that will hold the Ministry of Finance in the next government.

Joking aside, we felt that there was not much seriousness behind these talks. In reality, another government coalition had been decided. It just needed these talks as a pretense so that it wouldn’t be obvious that something else had already been decided. However, regardless, the Pirate Party’s demands in these talks had been approved. There were many attempts to provoke us and make us break off the talks, but we stood by our principles and solved pragmatically everything that was thrown at us.

That’s what political compromises are about. To pragmatically resolve the challenges we are presented with, without having to compromise on morality, justice, or the conviction of the collaborators. To ensure that no one has to compromise their principles.

Before the 2021 parliamentary elections, the outgoing Prime Minister said that all parties needed to take the edge off their arrogance and agree to compromises. But there’s a difference between making compromises and flatly surrendering one’s conviction and being repeatedly trampled on.

In the Stöð 2 election TV show before the 2021 elections, Hilmir Már Pétursson asked me: “Some have said about the Pirates […] that if something came up that was a matter of principle, you would leave the government after a few days,” to which I replied: “We demand professional practices. We see political appointments that we do not accept. Those are not high demands to make of politics, to work professionally. We think those are very low, obvious demands.”

It should not be complicated to demand from coalition partners to work professionally and not to infringe upon the principles of their collaborators. That’s the minimum in any collaboration, right? So yes, if such a breach of trust were to occur, it would be very natural to reconsider such cooperation. That’s why we say as clearly as possible that it is not possible to work with the Independence Party in government. We know that this party (the party, not the people) operates in a certain way. There are countless historical examples of this. It is predictable that cooperation with the Independence Party would sooner or later end with such a breach of trust that it would not be possible to continue the cooperation. However, we are always open to collaboration on individual good ideas, as everyone can have good ideas regardless of whether they are in some kind of government coalition or not.

The current government coalition, however, has sacrificed all principles for the sake of power. No matter what happens, the coalition trudges on. It may be called compromises, but in my opinion, it is submission and surrender. The coalition and the chairs are more important than the principles - and if that is the situation, what is left, substantially? The work of politicians is about their conviction. And if you constantly have to sacrifice your conviction, what kind of politician are you then?