Kim Dotcom to launch New Zealand political party
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Indicted Internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom says he’s launching a political party in his adopted home of New Zealand to contest the country’s general election this year.
In an interview with The Associated Press this week, Dotcom said 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.
He later announced on Twitter that he will call it the “Internet Party.”
Dotcom said he will launch the party Monday, the second anniversary of when police stormed his mansion near Auckland and arrested him. Authorities at that time also shut down Megaupload, the popular file-sharing site he co-founded. He has since started a new file-hosting site, Mega.
U.S. prosecutors accuse Dotcom of facilitating Internet piracy on a massive scale. Charged with racketeering and money laundering, he’s fighting U.S. attempts to extradite him. Dotcom argues he can’t be held responsible for those who chose to use his site to illegally download songs or movies.
Dotcom said that 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 has some good candidates for the party but wants 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 Internet Party will promote. Dotcom has been outspokenly critical of both liberals like U.S. President Barack Obama and conservatives like 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 New Zealand’s proportional system, parties need to win just 5 percent of the vote to get a seat in Parliament. Even if Dotcom’s party didn’t 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,” wrote Bryce Edwards, a political commentator and lecturer at the University of Otago, 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, marginalized, and disillusioned voters and non-voters, the ... 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. U.S. 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.