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Power to the people!!

The Minister of Commerce and Banking announced his resignation this morning. He moreover announced that he had dismissed the director and board of the Financial Supervisory Authority.

wOOOOOOt!!!

Seriously, I feel like doing a frenzied African war dance in my living room. In fact …

[…]

wOOOOOOt!!!

OK, now that that’s out of the way it’s time to get cynical [because, you know, despite my empathy with people with cancer and suchlike I can get cynical with the best of you … er … them]…

The minister would have us believe that this is a “decision of conscience”, thereby exposing his own simple-mindedness as I don’t think any thinking person will believe that. If this was so, why didn’t he resign weeks ago?  On the contrary it is evident that this is merely a well-constructed ploy [and not even that well constructed, really] to enhance his image now that elections have been called. With any luck [on his part] he will only have to be out of a job for about four or five months and will then be re-elected; had he not resigned, however, the chances of that would have been slim. He is a minister for the Social Democratic Alliance, which has plummeted in popularity over the last week or so, and I suspect he feels this is his – and their – only chance at re-election.

Still, he’s the first one to publicly shoulder responsibility for the economic implosion, despite not even having been in government when the whole system was engineered, so we can give him -1 point on the Bananarepublic-o-meter for that. And -2 points for kicking the fricking amateurs at the FSA out on their butts before he left. No, make that -3 points. Huzzah!!

Meanwhile, the Central Bank board operates under the auspices of the Prime Minister who has done nothing but declare his unfailing devotion to Davíd Oddsson and his cronies at the bank. We shall see if the Independence Party pulls a similar stunt as the SDA to raise its popularity, although with the unnatural power that Doddsson appears to wield over the PM and his people I don’t expect a great deal from that camp.

MEANWHILE, I PROMISED A REPORT
On yesterday’s demonstration, which was incredible. To be perfectly honest, I half-expected that with the government’s concession to the public, i.e. calling elections this spring, protester numbers would drop off and people would slink back into complacency. Not so. Yesterday’s demonstration was the most well-attended to date, with over 5,000 people participating. The energy was incredible – vastly different from the strong undercurrent of of anger, hopelessness and despair that has prevailed of late. It’s like our latest victory [the PM’s intention to call elections] has unleashed tremendous energy and elation and yesterday’s demonstration was almost like a celebration. It was fantastic to be there, at the very center of change and at such a momentous time in the history of our nation.

Here is part of an excellent speech by writer Guðmundur Andri Thorsson [unfortunately slightly truncated] which will give you small idea of the atmosphere and also protester numbers:

When the demonstration ended, the organizers announced from the podium that a choir would sing in front of the parliament building. This has never happened before. Happily we were standing nearby and so we got to hear them perform two of our most beautiful national songs: Land míns föður, landið mitt [The land of my father, my land] and Hver á sér fegra föðurland [Who has a more beautiful fatherland?]. It was very moving, and really lifted the mood. I managed to record a little bit of the former song, here:

As soon as they had finished, people started once more banging drums, pots, pans and whatever they had, and chanting Vanhæf ríkisstjórn! [Incompetent government!]. It’s like a tribal chant that has been ongoing for the past week, and it’s fantastic.

This is history in the making, people. Momentous and incredible.

IT’S A CALM AND MILD SUNDAY
I suppose this is what is called “light air” according to the Beaufort wind scale [if you’ve been using the forums, you may have noticed the different ranks given to people according to number of posts – you start off calm and work your way up to a hurricane…] – and it sure looks nice out there. Gentle sunshine this morning but it is currently overcast in the capital, with temps at 2°C [36F]. Sunrise was at 10:28 am and sunset due for 4:53 pm. This afternoon at 3 pm there is yet another demonstration, this time on Lækjartorg square, to protest vandalism and violence against the police.

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  • Mondrian January 25, 2009, 2:12 pm

    wOOOOOOt!!! indeed, plus I’m not suprised at all that these announcements have given the protests a shot in the arm. What I’m curious about now is whether new formal political movements / parties will coalesce between now and the spring.

  • James January 25, 2009, 2:24 pm

    I was wondering if there any betting sites with odds for Mathiesen and Oddsson to resign next week? I lost my bet on Saturday’s final of Celebrity Big Brother when Ulrika lasted until the end, but see an opportunity to win that money back. “Oddsson and Mathiesen, you have been evicted! I’m coming to get you”…

  • Lissa January 25, 2009, 2:45 pm

    Great news, but, I fear, a day late and a dollar short.

  • Skúli January 25, 2009, 3:07 pm

    Thank you for the video. For me that choir singing was the best part of the event.

  • Sigga January 25, 2009, 3:16 pm

    Totally in agreement with you on Björgvins motives, however, hats off to him for actually coming out and saying that he is taking political responsibility and that the actions of the government post crash have not been effective. Especially glad he got rid of the FSA head and board. However, am waiting to find out what his starfslokasamning says (ie how much he will be rewarded for being incompetent)

  • Pat January 25, 2009, 3:39 pm

    This truly is good news for the people of Iceland. I still wonder, however, if Geir hadn’t been ill (and I do wish him well with the surgery and treatment), whether or not this unbelievably corrupt and arrogant group of politicians would have had the decency to resign and accept responsibility for their disgusting behaviour.
    I am totally shocked that David Oddson is still in his position. He takes the cake!
    I will admit that I don’t think I have ever seen such arrogance on such a scale as has been evident in this group! (Let’s not forget Jonina’s stunt a while back re: the granting of citizenship.)

  • mary January 25, 2009, 3:43 pm

    Great! you are on the way up!

  • Ljósmynd DE January 25, 2009, 4:02 pm

    At least it`s just bad conscience and not another serious illness. You wouldn’t know what to say, if the government was about to be turning into a sickbed.

    The minister looks very young, certainly planning on his future career. He surely had in mind that the first one to leave the sinking – government – ship is going to be forgiven most easily.

    Isn’t it now time for extraparliamentary experts to step in?

    Is Oddson planning to run for election as new PM?…just kidding.

    Are you planning to create “Vanhæf ríkisstjórn!”-T-shirts?

  • Vaidas January 25, 2009, 5:08 pm

    I completely agree with Alda about sensation of “Vanhæf ríkisstjórn” chant. From the beginning of pans and pots protests I felt like taking part in pagan exorcism ceremony, evicting demons of greediness and selfishness. I like time spent in this light trance and am ready to continue on banging pot and chanting as long as demons are gone!

  • giustino January 25, 2009, 5:16 pm

    Great blog! Good to see there are others chronicling the painful rebirth of northern Europe. Takk fyrir.

  • Sarf January 25, 2009, 7:43 pm

    I am a foreigner living here, and what little I do know of the situation i am glad they finally bowed to public pressure. The protests where starting to get out of control.

    The government should exist at the sufferance of the people. not the other way around. The Protests/ riots where starting to get out of hand, while I agree with the people, the government can always escalate higher. And i was beginning to worry about where this was heading.

    But it seems like cooler heads are starting to prevail. Just don’t elect the same baboons again, no matter what they say on stage and TV.

  • maja January 25, 2009, 11:32 pm

    Awesome!

  • Ljósmynd DE January 26, 2009, 9:26 am

    I have been pondering somehow about your comment to one of the last posts that foreigners tend to behave more cynical and hate the sinner instead of the sin.

    It seems to me reasonable to consider it as two separate matters: feeling sympathetic with the PM on a human level, which everybody definitely should do and certainly does, and feeling uneasy about the fact that just at a crucial point, when public action and a public statement in behalf of the government seemed inevitable, private matters were brought forward, leaving everybody, questioning this stunning coincidence, exposed to being considered as heartless or cynical. I’m not familiar with the intricacies of Icelandic politics, I’m just seeing the patterns – from an outsider’s point of view. Confounding those two things seems to be distracting from the real problems and not to be in the interest of those, who want to have changes, if only because mixing private and public matters is one of those problems.

    But the ongoing high participation in the demonstrations seems to indicate that people are able to focus on the real problems and being empathic at the same time.

  • alda January 26, 2009, 10:05 am

    LDE – I totally agree with you, these are two separate matters. However, in my view at that particular moment they were intertwined and inseparable. The PM had just learned that his illness was malignant. Perhaps that affected his decision to call elections – who knows. But my personal view is that it was natural for him to inform the nation right away about being ill, as it obviously is very relevant at this time. And it is also natural at a human level to feel empathy/sympathy for him and his family. That doesn’t mean that his work performance is above criticism – and in that sense his illness is irrelevant. However, I would have thought it more strange had he kept it to himself.

  • Dave Hambidge January 26, 2009, 10:09 am

    Power to the people of Niceland!!

  • colin buchanan January 26, 2009, 10:10 am

    Viva la revolucion bolivarista en Islandia! We are seeing the beginning of the pattern that unfolded in Bolivia and elsewhere in South America: sections of the corrupt elited crumbling away before popular pressure. Alda is right- Iceland is “at the very center of change” but not just in Iceland. Hopefully we can bring this model of protest to the UK where 60 million people are being left to the tender mercies of a vicious financier elite who have everyone in their pockets, most of all the government.

    I have posted your report:

    http://inthesenewtimes.com/2009/01/26/power-to-the-people/

  • colin buchanan January 26, 2009, 10:30 am

    I’m just thinking through the political ramifications of all this. There is the wider issue of whether Iceland is part of the collapsing atlanticist, empire of fraud, block or part of Europe which still has the basis of a real economy, infrastructure etc. sufficient to survive the Tsunami. This issue hasn’t completely clarified yet since europe hasn’t itself broken free of anglo-saxon tutelage, but it will do( you can help it to do so) Of course, Iceland is in the process of reaffirming its sovereignty in a real sense but there is a contradiction there: it can only do so within a wider regional context, in this case europe. Exactly the same principle applies to the South American nations as they throw off US hegemony.

    What I’m feeling towards is this slogan:

    Iceland out of NATO, Iceland into europe(the Euro)!

    This would probably just cause division at the moment but make no mistake: at some point this geopolitical dilemma will have to resolved and that little slogan will shake the world.