NEW YORK – Kim Dotcom, the Internet tycoon facing extradition to the U.S. on piracy charges, said his political party is on course to win more than 5 percent of the vote in New Zealand’s general election by appealing to young and first-time voters.
The party’s own polling currently shows it attracting 4.8 percent support, more than double its level in other polls, Dotcom said in an interview at a dance party in Wellington late on July 25. Unlike most surveys that sampled over landline phones, the party was also polling via mobile phones and the Internet, he said. “We are primarily popular in the Internet generation, they don’t have landlines.”
Dotcom, who has captivated New Zealand since police stormed his Auckland mansion more than two years ago, has clashed with Prime Minister John Key over spying laws and vowed to help eject his National Party from office. Dotcom founded the Internet Party this year and entered an alliance with the Mana Party to form Internet-Mana ahead of the Sept. 20 election.
Under New Zealand’s German-style electoral system, any political party that gets 5 percent of the vote is guaranteed representation in parliament. In an election where just a few seats could determine who wins, the main opposition force, the Labour Party has said it will consider including Internet-Mana in any coalition government it forms.
Dotcom is holding a series of dance parties around New Zealand to take his message to young people.
Speaking at the Wellington event, on a roped-off balcony guarded by security, Dotcom said he’s targeting people who wouldn’t normally vote. Of 3.4 million eligible voters, 442,000 are aged 18 to 24, according to the Electoral Commission.
“I want to mobilize the youth to go out and have a voice in politics and not let their parents decide who should run this country,” Dotcom said.
Internet-Mana is campaigning on a platform of Internet freedom, cheaper and faster web connection, free tertiary education and copyright law reform. The Mana Party, led by Maori MP and activist Hone Harawira, also advocates for Maori rights.
Key is seeking a third term in government. While his National Party has the most support, if it gets less than 50 percent of the vote on election day it may struggle to find coalition partners.
National had 52 percent support in a Colmar Brunton poll for Television New Zealand’s One News published July 27. Labour was at 28 percent, the Green Party was on 10 percent and Internet-Mana had 2 percent support.
Dotcom, 40, was born as Kim Schmitz in Germany and legally changed his name. While not a New Zealand citizen and not standing for parliament himself, he is bankrolling Internet-Mana with 3 million New Zealand dollars ($2.6 million) of his own money. Key has said Dotcom is trying to buy political influence to avoid extradition.
“This is nothing to do with my extradition,” Dotcom said. “What this is all about is taking New Zealand forward. And it’s my gratitude to those people who have stood by me in my hardest hours. When I was raided and arrested and ultimately when I got out on bail, New Zealand supported me and they had my back, so this Internet Party is my gratitude to them.”
Dotcom, founder of the file-sharing website Megaupload.com, was indicted in Virginia in January 2012 on racketeering, money-laundering, copyright infringement and wire fraud charges. New Zealand police used helicopters and an assault team during the raid on Dotcom’s home, seizing 18 luxury vehicles, including a 1959 pink Cadillac, art, cash, computers and hard drives.
A New Zealand judge subsequently ruled the search was illegal because police used overly broad and invalid warrants, though that was overturned on appeal. Key was also forced to apologize to Dotcom after New Zealand’s foreign intelligence agency was found to have illegally spied on him.
Dotcom denies the charges and says he’ll publish evidence before the election showing Key lied when he said he hadn’t heard of Dotcom before the raid. His extradition hearing has repeatedly been delayed amid appeals and counter claims.