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Exit the clowns

So, Reykjavík Mayor Jón Gnarr has decided not to run for re-election next spring. He announced his decision this morning.

He also announced that the Best Party, which he fronted, will cease to exist. Its members who wish to continue in politics will join a party called Björt framtíð [Bright Future], which basically grew out of the Best Party and went on to run at the national level, winning six seats in parliament in the last elections.

It was a big deal when Jón Gnarr won the city council elections almost four years ago. Initially his campaign started as a joke. Jón, after all, was – and is – one of Iceland’s best-known comedians, albeit a somewhat controversial one: adored by some, reviled by others. No one really expected the campaign to go anywhere, but in the end the Best Party won a majority and have presided over Iceland’s capital since then.

As for Jón’s reasons for quitting – essentially it’s because [in his own words] he’s a comedian, not a politician. He initially ran to get a certain message across, which he has now done. He has no further aspirations on the political stage.

I didn’t vote for the Best Party, and I haven’t always been thrilled by their performance. To my mind they’ve just been average – no better or worse than any other party, politically speaking, though they’ve done all their work with a certain flair and irreverence that has been refreshing. [I hasten to say, though, that I would much rather have them in power than the miserable Independence or Progressive parties.]

Now, however, I very much respect Jón Gnarr for his decision. It would have been really easy for him to stay on … he totally had that option. His party currently enjoys a 37% following, which is pretty substantial [it will be interesting to see how that gets divided up among the others now in the running]. Moreover, it’s probably a reasonably cushy job, with lots of perks and admiration to go along with it. So for him to reject it in favour of what he considers to be his calling shows a great deal of integrity.

Finally, I can’t resist posting the video the Best Party made for their election campaign, which is a good example of this flair of which I speak. Sadly the lyrics lose the delightful postmodern irony that they have in the Icelandic, but still, you get the idea.