Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has claimed “teething problems” are to blame for escalating setbacks in his bid to win seats in the Australian senate.
The latest blow to his electoral campaign is the resignation of top local candidate Leslie Cannold, who claims there is a lack of transparency and accountability in the party.
Assange is currently holed up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he was granted political asylum over a year ago. If he leaves the building he faces immediate arrest and extradition to Sweden where he is wanted on rape and sexual assault charges.
Speaking to Australian network ABC news Assange said: “I made a decision two months ago to spend a lot of my time dealing with the Edward Snowden asylum situation, and trying to save the life of a young man. The result is over-delegation. I admit and I take full responsibility for over-delegating functions to the Australia party.”
Assange’s Wikileaks Party is running for a seat in the upper house of the Senate and promotes itself on its transparency and human rights principles. However, in Cannold’s resignation letter, which was obtained by Reuters, she calls the party undemocratic saying: “As long as I believed there was a chance that democracy , transparency and accountability could prevail in the party, I was willing to stay on and fight for it”.
The controversy stems from the party’s decisions in the ‘preference system’ which allows losing parties to direct their votes to compatible candidates from other parties. In two Australian states, the Wikileaks party gave its preference to right-wing candidates over some of its own supporters, such as a member of the Greens party.
According to ABC news the Wikileaks Party has blamed the irregularities on “administration errors” and has promised to review its processes. But other news sources have reported that Assange explained one of the decisions as an affirmative action choice to give preference to Aboriginal candidate David Wirripanda.
During his interview with ABC, Assange added: “Its not easy being a party leader at a distance with a 9 hour time delay… I went to sleep last night, during the night this whole kerfuffle broke out in Australia, I wasn’t aware of it until this morning,” he said. “Leslie didn’t speak to me to address any issues or concerns.”
Cannold is not the only member of the party to jump ship; reportedly seven members and volunteers have now left, including Daniel Matthews one of the co-founders of the Wikileaks site. In a blog post Matthews explained: “I know I may be criticised for jumping ship instead of weathering the storm. But the public, and especially the party’s supporters, deserve to know what happened and what has happened behind the scenes in this fiasco within the party of transparency, and I have decided that this is the best course of action.”