Kim Dotcom: five reasons why Internet Party might succeed

Mar 27, 2014

Megaupload founder launches political party ahead of New Zealand's general election in September

KIM DOTCOM has formally launched a political party in New Zealand ahead of the country's general election in September. The Internet Party, which has pledged to fight for faster broadband, online privacy and copyright reform, has been met with much derision, with many doubtful that it will ever gain a presence in parliament.

To do so, the party must win an electoral seat or secure five per cent of the electoral vote. It was suggested that Kim could up his chances by aligning with an existing party, but his most likely ally, the anti-establishment Mana Party, which has one MP, appears to have cast doubt on that plan.  

To even have a shot at taking part in the election, the party must first sign up 500 members and register with electoral authorities. 

Meanwhile, Kim is fighting extradition to the US over charges of mass copyright infringement, money laundering and racketeering, relating to his file hosting and sharing website Megaupload, which was shut down in 2012. Nevertheless, here are five reasons not to underestimate the new party just yet...

Swedish Pirate Party's success

The Internet Party's manifesto has similarities to that of Sweden's Pirate Party, founded in 2006. At one point the Pirate Party was Sweden's third-largest political party in terms of membership and it secured two MEPs in the European Parliamentary election. Policies of internet freedom and privacy have even more appeal now in the wake of Edward Snowden's revelations about state surveillance, says Dr Bryce Edwards, a politics lecturer at University of Otago, in the New Zealand Herald.

Winning over the disaffected

Kim is convinced that he can secure the five per cent vote by targeting young people disaffected with politics who have never voted. While some argue this is not a monolithic group that can be targeted with one ideology, others acknowledge that the "anti-establishment geekery of a Dotcom party" could go some way to win over non-voters. The party polled zero in a 3 News poll last month, but one in five said they would "consider" voting for it. Crucially, out of the undecided voters, one in three said they would consider voting for Dotcom's party and that was before it had even launched. "Although few of these voters will actually end up as supporters, it's still not inconceivable that Dotcom could hit five per cent," says Edwards.

Serious investment

New Zealand media commentator Russell Brown says too much money and expertise has been invested in the venture "to simply write off the Internet Party". An office has been set up with seven experienced staff. While their salaries have not been published, chief executive Vikram Kumar has acknowledged he is on a "fair" six-figure salary, a pay cut from his previous job as boss of Dotcom's Mega cloud-sharing web start-up. The party intends to spend around $1m during the election campaign.

Kim's ‘star power'

Another reason the party might stand a chance is Kim's "star power", says Brown. Born Kim Schmitz in Germany, the 39-year-old cannot stand as a candidate himself because he is a New Zealand resident not a citizen. However, he has suggested that a sitting unnamed MP is willing to jump ship and join the Internet Party, which would make Kim's plan to enter parliament much easier. Kim and his colourful reputation will never be far away.

Power of technology

If anyone can use technology and the internet to gain support, Kim is the one to do it. The party is planning a "heavy social media marketing push" and has already launched a mobile app, website, Twitter account and Facebook page. The party will be accepting membership payments via Bitcoin and has included a new government-sponsored digital currency in its manifesto. Political analysts are looking forward to more "internet-savvy innovations" that may sway the online voters.

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The funny thing, that some have noted, is that the Internet party is not about the policies. There's a New Zealand political party that also matches that of the Internet party, and the Swedish Pirate Party; It's the New Zealand Pirate Party that was formed in 2009.

You'd think that if the policies of the Internet Party were the important thing, that he'd work to support and assist that party, rather than starting his own to compete with it and split the vote. The only difference would be that it's the Pirate Party, and not "Kim Dotcom's Internet Party". So, it's reasonable to conclude that it's more about getting him more media attention than dealing with the issues.

Doesn't sound so good now, does he?