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Referendum rundown

It’s been a rather gray and gloomy day, this day of the first national referendum since the founding of the Republic of Iceland.

I got up [relatively] early and headed for the gym. It was packed and I was slightly surprised that I did not hear the word “Icesave” mentioned once. Not in the fitness area, not in the area where people go to stretch, not in the change room. People were talking away, but about all manner of other things.

I had two interviews booked today with the CBC in Canada via Skype. The first one was completely muddled up because the audio was all out of whack and they pushed my time back considerably. I only had about two or three minutes to explain what Icesave is and what the referendum was about, and you can imagine how that went. So frustrating when there’s so much information to get across yet the time allows only a very superficial and even inaccurate representation of the way things really are.

I then headed out to the demonstration that had been organized downtown. There was first a march down Laugavegur, then a gathering in front of the parliament buildings, in Austurvöllur square. The weather was pretty unpleasant, which may or may not account for the relatively small turnout. RÚV claims there were over 1,000 people there, which I was a bit surprised to hear because to me it didn’t seem like that many. Given the emotional charge surrounding the Icesave issue and the trouble that so many people are in these days, I would have expected there to be more.

After the demo, EPI and AAH and I went to vote. Apparently voting started off slowly but picked up in the early afternoon. By 6 pm, around 42% of the electorate had cast their ballots and they’re expecting exit polls just past 10 pm this evening, which is when polling stations close. Apparently a 40% turnout in a referendum is considered pretty good, to say nothing of when the referendum is as confusing as this one is.

As I explained yesterday, Jóhanna publicly declared that she would shun the vote. Steingrímur J. has refused to say whether or not he’s voted, but President Ólafur Ragnar was hounded by the press this morning when he went to vote. He refused to say, however, how he cast his ballot [although I think we can probably guess].

I had another interview with the CBC just after 6 pm this evening, which went a lot better than the first, primarily because there was more time allotted to explain just what this is about. Obviously, though, it only managed to scratch the surface of this overwhelmingly complex issue.

More anon!

[PS – there is something wrong with the comments system — some of you say that your comments have been eaten, and I’m not getting notifications of new comments. Will try to get the problem resolved asap!]

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  • phil-fox March 6, 2010, 10:26 pm

    Hello Alda , back to work REUTER 95 % NO at 22 h 26
    Now what next .
    Regards

  • sylvia hikins March 6, 2010, 10:38 pm

    BBC News 10.15 this evening reported 97% vote against Bill. It was a fair piece of reporting, showing the demonstration that you referred to Alda. The main points made were- Icelanders are prepared to pay their debts but not at any price; Britain should get its money but the queston is, on what terms; the two countries are not far apart in the negotiations which are expected to resume in the next few weeks. No negative reporting- it was careful and measured. The BBC reporter speaking live outside Parliament looked absolutely frozen!
    sylvia from viking wirral

  • The Fred from the forums March 7, 2010, 12:11 am

    May I ask some questions out of curiosity?

    How typical is it for the parliament and the people to have positions this far apart?

    When that gap occurs, what causes it? In my country I know why the political class is disconnected from the people, but a small close-knit society would necessarily have different reasons.

    In routine conditions, how much does the normal fisherman, teacher, or artist follow and engage in politics?

  • The Fred from the forums March 7, 2010, 12:24 am

    What does it mean that the turnout was relatively low?

  • Andrew (the other one) March 7, 2010, 1:03 am

    Hopefully everybody will now get back to negotiating. I notice that there are signs of grumpiness from the Dutch, comments about blocking Iceland’s EU application (when and if!) unless Icesave is resolved. I hope that is not the British position too.

    Andrew

  • jo6pac March 7, 2010, 1:21 am

    This is great news and may be other nations follow you in the future. Yes, it will be tuff but your country will not be Owned by the IMF. Please when the numbers are in, how many voted? We in Amerika didn’t have this honor to vote against the criminals that have ruined this nation. This vote was very Brave. Thank You

  • Easy March 7, 2010, 1:22 am

    Turnout low?? More than 60% of the electorate!!

  • Michael Lewis March 7, 2010, 9:00 am

    You can’t spin 97% That is embarassing for the Icelandic PM.
    Though, I suppose she will cling on. It does indicate she has badly handled the situation – proposing Iceland accept an agreement, that when better terms were available through negotation.
    I still think Holland/UK should offer repayment via assets such as natural resources, that would be fair and not force taxpayers into debt.

  • hildigunnur March 7, 2010, 10:16 am

    Fred, if we just knew. Everybody will put their own spin on it I suppose, though.

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