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.
THIN CLOUD COVER, OCCASIONAL SUN
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!]