Julian Assange announced via a videolink from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been holed up for more than a year, that he would enter mainstream politics. The founder of whistleblower website WikiLeaks is one among seven candidates of the WikiLeaks Party that is hoping to win a seat in the Australian Senate.
Two of the other six in the fray are of Indian origin. While Assange will attempt to get elected out of the Ecuador embassy in London where he has been granted asylum while rape and molestation charges hover over him in Sweden Binoy Kampmark and Suresh Rajan will contest from Victoria and Western Australia, respectively, as Senate candidates for the WikiLeaks Party.
“I want to protect the values I have fought for: transparency, accountability and justice, with every weapon I have. I believe I can change how politics is done by bringing WikiLeaks’ investigative techniques and our reputation for incorruptibility into parliament,” Assange told ET Magazine in reply to emailed questions.
Members of Assange’s party in Australia hope that if elected the Australian government would be forced to think hard about bringing him home or face the bizarre situation where the people of Victoria who elected him to the Senate would not have their representative sitting in it. “Australia should involve itself in negotiations with Washington, London and Stockholm to bring Assange home,” Greg Barns, Assange’s campaign manager in Australia, told ET Magazine.
The candidates that the WikiLeaks Party has fielded for the forthcoming Australian Senate elections have been drawn from diverse walks of life; none of them has any active political background. Both Kampmark and Rajan are from academia and from the non-governmental agency space. While Kampmark is a professor specialising in foreign policy and international law at RMIT University in Melbourne, Rajan has been an advocate for disadvantaged groups for many years in the state of Western Australia.
Capable and Committed
“My good friend NirajLal, a physicist at the Australian National University who sits on our [WikiLeaks Party] national council, is also involved. It is interesting that the party has so many high-profile people of Indian origin. I just picked the most capable and the most committed, but it accords with my experiences over many years,” adds Assange. “India loves WikiLeaks and believes in what we do, more than any other culture. I don’t know why. It is a pleasing mystery.” Assange also told ET Magazine that his ambition was not to create just another political party.
Â “I want to change the real constraints on politics the interplay between knowledge and political will. We cannot be better than what we believe. What we know defines our political possibilities.” Kampmark, who is making a foray into politics as an electoral candidate, has studied about politics and written about it throughout his academic career in Australia, the UK and the US.
“My interest in it is based on the idea of countering the surveillance state with legal remedies, and bringing an alternative view on how policy is made without the need for police solutions,” says Kampmark
As an expert on international legal issues Kampmark believes that Assange is entitled to contest the Senate position from Victoria, as he is planning to do, though there are legal impediments. “His ideas and his platforms remain legitimate matters of electoral contest and, should he have problems taking up a Senate seat, there will be others to fill his position,” said Kampmark, whose Bengali mother was educated in Malaysia, Australia and Japan.
His grandparents were born in Bengal and settled in Malaysia before the Japanese occupation during World War II. He himself was born in Malaysia and went to school in Denmark and Australia before heading to university in the UK.
Kampmark believes that WikiLeaks is a very unusual party that will force the Australian government to rethink on various important policy matters. These include transparency in policy; secret deals between countries and companies; legal provisions for whistleblowers in face of prosecution and those who question state authority; and accountability of officials both private and public. However, he is somewhat unsure about the prospects of the party in the upcoming elections.
“Our chances in Victoria and New South Wales are rather good, but politics is a vicious and fickle business,” he says. The freshness of WikiLeaks, he believes, will be an advantage with the party making an impact in the Twittersphere and on social networks with the youth, which is otherwise considered a politically disengaged segment.