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It’s just a jump to the left

One day to our national elections, and the tension is mounting.

Or is it? – Not really. According to the latest poll* the current government is pretty secure with a combined support of 56.4 percent. Based on the figures, the Social Democrats [Samfylkingin] would get 19  MPs elected and the Left-Greens [Vinstri grænir] 18. To me, this is like a breath of fresh air. We may not have our Obama, but these elections feel very much like the recent elections in the US, where it was between the fresh new Democrats and the staid, dusty, corrupt Republicans. And while I’m not partial to all of the candidates [and some less than others], I find the fact that the leftist parties are coming up strong immensely heartening.

The Independence Party [Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn], meanwhile, which has had a stronghold in this country for decades, is looking at its worst outcome ever. Unsurprising, you might think, considering the events of the last few months – and yet if you were familiar with the ins-and-outs of Icelandic society you’d know that it is highly significant. Because for many Icelanders the IP is a religion. It’s a sect. In fact, it’s incredible to witness the loyalty of some of its members, who have been brought up in the IP dogma and who will vote for Their Party regardless of the amount of corruption that is exposed [and there is PLENTY … if I started writing about it I could probably go all weekend], or the grave misjudgments the IP has so obviously made, or the utter failure of its policies. It completely boggles the mind.

But I digress. There are, of course, other parties in the running besides the three above. The Progressive Party [Framsóknarflokkurinn], which has lost a great deal of support in recent years and which now has an 11.9 percent following [seven seats in parliament], the Liberal Party [Frjálslyndi flokkurinn], which has 1.2 percent support and gets no seats in parliament, the Democratic Movement [Lýðræðishreyfingin], which gets a 0.4 percent following and no seats, and finally The Citizen’s Movement [Borgarahreyfingin] which sprung out of the protests last fall and winter and which has a handsome 6.5 percent following, which would translate into four seats in parliament.

The issues in these elections are diverse; however the single largest issue that has emerged in the last few days is the question of EU accession. A number of experts have come forth with dire warnings and well-presented arguments that if we do not immediately apply for entry into the European Union we will face another, more serious, economic collapse in just a few months’ time. On a very basic level the reasoning is that the collapse that took place last fall was the collapse of our ‘imagined’ wealth, i.e. the bubbles that had been created in our economy. However, if we continue to isolate ourselves, with our own small currency and limited affiliation with other nations, we are looking at something much more serious – the collapse of real valuables. If a new monetary policy is not formed very soon [read: if we don’t ditch the krona] those companies that we do have that are operating in the international marketplace will move their headquarters elsewhere. Already they are struggling heavily with the instability of the krona. And a public declaration that Iceland is prepared to enter into talks with the EU on membership would also go a long way towards re-establishing our credibility in the outside world.

The only party that has EU accession firmly on its agenda is the Social Democratic Alliance. The Left-Greens are waffling – in principle they say NO but they’ve also said they’ll “leave it up to the people”. What this means is that they favour a national referendum both to decide whether we should submit an application AND whether we should join if and when negotiations have been completed.

It looks very much like those two parties will continue in power, yet  the question remains how they will resolve the EU issue. Both have said that they reject a coalition with the Independence Party – in fact they’ve both announced that one of their goals is to keep the IP out. In the end they’ll have to come to some sort of compromise on the EU issue and someone suggested the other day that they’ll give up their staunch EU position in return for the Prime Minister’s Office, i.e. that the leader of the LGs will get to play PM in the next coalition, in return for supporting EU accession. But that’s just pure specualation – the next few days will reveal the truth. Stay tuned.

It looks pretty out there, although the slight wind has me thinking it’s a bit colder than it looks. Right now 4°C [39F], the sun came up at 5:24 am and will set at 9:30 pm.

* The info here is based on a poll conducted by Gallup for Morgunblaðið and RÚV.

[PS I’ll be interviewed on CBC Newsworld tomorrow morning at 7 am e.s.t. if anyone is up that early!]



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Gunnar D April 24, 2009, 1:58 pm

    Given the 25% or so support the IP is getting in gallups, one might think that this is the persentage of the nation that participated in the corrupt practices of the former government? One in four is “útrásarvíkingur” in their heart and soul?

  • Gunnar D April 24, 2009, 1:59 pm

    Forgot to mention that I greatly admire your photographic skills!

  • Karen* April 24, 2009, 2:52 pm

    Is that CBC interview on the radio or tv?

  • alda April 24, 2009, 4:06 pm

    Gunnar – methinks we shall never know. – And thanks for the kudos. I just employ the point-and-shoot strategy. 🙂

    Karen – on telly.

  • hildigunnur April 24, 2009, 6:28 pm

    I’m really looking forward to Sat. evening, fully expect to rejoice. As it is we have about 10 teenage girls on a sleepover (middle child’s 13 yr old birthday party) so we mustn’t drink too much, though 😀

  • Ljósmynd DE April 24, 2009, 8:05 pm

    The percentage of 22-23% of the voters still supporting the IP is really astonishing. As minions of the cronyism they might constitute a high potential of destructiveness in the future.

    Today I found your books with the folk legends in the mail – with beautiful Icelandic postage stamps on the envelope. 🙂

  • Roy April 24, 2009, 8:09 pm

    And left it must be!

  • Sigga April 24, 2009, 11:48 pm

    I have a colleague who once apparently said he would vote D even if skrattin was the leader… he is now contemplating who he will vote for. Saying this though I know – like you said – it is a cult, in the voting booth the heart will always overcome the head… hence 25% of the nation will feel that they really have no choice.. so bizarre.

  • alda April 24, 2009, 11:48 pm

    LDE – good to know! 🙂

  • Andrew April 25, 2009, 3:22 am

    It’ll be good if the Citizen’s Movement does get a few seats, just to keep an eye on the existing politicians!

    What is an election in Iceland like? Posters, candidates knocking on doors? Is there any feature of your elections that is particularly Icelandic?

    What do you make of this article by Roger Boyes?

    “Voters seek hope as Iceland turns nasty”


  • Physchim62 April 25, 2009, 9:10 am

    Dammit, Janet! Don’t you realise that after a jump to the left, it’s

    …then a step to the right!
    Put your hands on your hips,
    You bring your knees in tight;
    But it’s the pelvic thrust
    That really drives you insane!
    Let’s do the timewarp again!

    Many a true word spoken in jest, and all that!

  • alda April 25, 2009, 10:59 am

    Andrew – I don’t know if there’s anything distinctly Icelandic about an Icelandic election campaign — it’s all that (what you listed) and more.
    As for the article, don’t have time to read it now, but will later.

    Physchim62 – glad to hear that somebody gets the title. 🙂

  • Elín April 25, 2009, 2:23 pm

    @Physchim62: hahaha – it is so nice to have a laugh! Alda, continued hope for best outcome for Iceland in today’s elections …

  • alda April 25, 2009, 3:15 pm

    Andrew – just read through the article … I’ve met Roger a couple of times and know he’s fairly well plugged in and think it shows in the article. I think it’s accurate in showing the general mood here.

  • Knute Rife April 25, 2009, 7:58 pm

    The support for the IP should not be so surprising. Here in the US, 25-30% of the population is determined to spin in with the neocon leaders of the Republican Party.

  • Kerry Scott April 27, 2009, 12:33 pm

    “staid, dusty, CORRUPT, Republicans”?

    Shame on you for this. I won’t argue the “staid, dusty” bit, as I’m not sure the next few years won’t prove that staid and dusty is what we all wish we had stayed. I will argue the “corrupt”. neither of our politicaal parties have a monopoly on corruption. It wasn’t a Republican governor who was trying to sell President Obama’s senate seat. Corruption bothers the hell out of me, regardless of the party of the perpetrator. Fortunately, in both our countries it’s only a small part of the problem (per Lonely Planet). The much bigger problem is what happens when our leaders are doing their jobs. Someone, De Toqueville I think, wrote more than two centuries ago “no man’s life, liberty or property are safe so long as the legislature is in session”. Never has this been more true than it is today, but it is certainly not party dependent. If Jefferson was right, and power does corrupt, shares in corruption stock will be a good investment for the next four years with one party controlling the White House and both houses of congress.

    While I’m ranting, I’ll also take a minute to apologize for the treatment you received at the hands of our embassy there. I’ve seen this before and it really saddens me. I worked at four of our embassies (as an Army officer, not a consular officer) and was sometimes shocked by the attitudes of some of the officials when it came to ‘customer service’. Having said that, I’ve sent you two e-mails and have yet to see a response to either of them!

    Anyway, keep up the good work. I am enjoying reading your blog in anticipation of a visit to your country in late May.