Megaupload founder cannot stand as a candidate himself, but vows to ‘activate non-voters, the youth, the internet electorate’
by Associated Press in Wellington theguardian.com
The indicted internet entrepreneur says he is founding and funding the party, but will not be a candidate. Born Kim Schmitz in Germany, the 39-year-old is a New Zealand resident but not a citizen and cannot be a candidate under New Zealand law.
My political party will activate non-voters, the youth, the Internet electorate. We are going to make politics exciting. More on January 20.
— Kim Dotcom (@KimDotcom) January 11, 2014
Dotcom said he would launch the party on Monday, the second anniversary of when police stormed his mansion near Auckland and arrested him. The authorities also shut down Megaupload, the popular file-sharing site he founded. He has since started a new file-hosting site, Mega.
American prosecutors accuse Dotcom of facilitating internet piracy on a massive scale. Charged with racketeering and money-laundering, he is fighting US attempts to extradite him. Dotcom argues he cannot be held responsible for those who chose to use his site to illegally download songs or movies.
Dotcom said next week he will launch his party website, a mobile app, and will begin registering party members. New Zealand law requires political parties to have 500 paid members.
Dotcom said he had some good candidates but wanted to keep those and other details a surprise for the launch. “As you can imagine, everybody wants to know,” he said.
Dotcom has been hinting about his plans for months on Twitter: “My political party will activate non-voters, the youth, the internet electorate,” he wrote last week.
It’s not clear what policies the party would promote. Dotcom has been outspokenly critical of both liberals such as President Barack Obama and conservatives including New Zealand’s prime minister, John Key.
But some observers believe Dotcom could influence the election. Opinion polls in New Zealand show a fairly even balance between conservative and liberal voters. Under the country’s proportional system, parties need to win just 5% of the vote to get a seat in parliament. Even if Dotcom’s party didn not win a seat, it could still take votes away from other parties.
“Kim Dotcom could throw a real spanner in the works of this year’s general election,” Bryce Edwards, a political commentator and lecturer at the University of Otago, wrote on his blog. “His promised new party is far from certain to get into parliament, but depending on how well it tickles the fancies of some of the more radical, marginalised, and disillusioned voters and non-voters, the so-called Mega party could have a huge impact on who forms the next government.”
Dotcom’s extradition case has become entangled in the New Zealand legal system and has been the subject of numerous delays. US authorities say they expect the case to be heard in July although appeals after that could delay a final outcome until next year.
New Zealand’s government has yet to set a date for the election. Many observers expect it will be held between September and November.