WELLINGTON Kim Dotcom, accused by Washington of being one of the world's biggest internet pirates, plunged into politics on Thursday with the launch of a party to contest New Zealand's general election in September.
The alleged copyright pirate, also known as Kim Schmitz, said the Internet Party's guiding principles included faster, cheaper Internet, the creation of high-tech jobs, and the protection of privacy.
"It is a movement for people who haven't voted before, who have been disappointed by voting, or who don't like the political choices on offer," Dotcom said in a statement.
"It is a movement for people who care about a digital future, and who want a society that is open, free and fair."
The flashy internet mogul is fighting a bid by U.S. authorities to extradite him from his lavish estate in New Zealand to face online piracy charges over the now closed file-sharing site Megaupload.
The attention has not fazed Dotcom, a large and ebullient German national with New Zealand residency.
On Tuesday, Dotcom gloated over a deal that will see a cloud storage firm he founded while on bail listing on the New Zealand stock exchange and valued on paper at NZ$210 million ($179 million).
Recruitment is being done through the party's website and apps on mobile devices, where he is described as the Internet Party's "Visionary".
The party must sign up 500 members and register with electoral authorities to take part in the election.
Under New Zealand's proportional voting system, a party must win either an electorate seat or at least 5 percent of the nationwide vote to get into the 120-seat parliament.
A Reuters survey of six polls shows the center-right National Party, which has been in power since 2008, with 48.2 percent support against the main opposition center-left Labour Party, which has 33.3 percent.
Dotcom has the right to vote in New Zealand but cannot stand for election until he becomes a citizen.
Since his arrival in New Zealand in 2010, he has been embroiled in a political funding scandal, and forced an apology from Prime Minister John Key for illegal surveillance by a government spy agency.
In early 2012, the New Zealand government arrested Dotcom at his mansion near Auckland in a SWAT-style raid requested by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Dotcom is free on bail while he fights extradition, although his movements are restricted.
(Reporting by Gyles Beckford; Editing by Paul Tait and Stephen Coates)