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Send in the clowns

OK, here’s the thing. We have municipal elections coming up at the end of this month and it’s just the most gag-worthy sideshow ever. The traditional parties are just re-hashing tired old election slogans and are bringing absolutely NOTHING new to the table. Everyone is in a state of complete apathy, it seems, especially the voters.

And then this new party comes along, called Besti Flokkurinn — the Best Party. And they’re ostensibly a joke, led by one of Iceland’s most popular comedians, Jón Gnarr, who makes silly election promises like setting up a branch of Disneyland in Reykjavík and putting a polar bear in the Family Park and Zoo and a toll booth on Seltjarnarnes. They’re just totally hamming it up … or are they? There’s the rub: they claim they’re perfectly serious, but some of their antics are just too hard to take seriously.  I think that may well be their undoing – at the end of the day, it’s hard to know exactly what they’re all about, and that makes people kind of uneasy.

BUT!

They’ve got this following. A couple of weeks ago they were the second-largest party in Reykjavík according to the polls, right behind the formerly revered [choke] Independence Party. At that time it looked like they’d get four members elected.

Yesterday the polls showed that they are now the biggest party in Reykjavík, bigger than the Independence Party, and would get six members elected if elections were held today.

Predictably analysts are having a field day trying to figure out what this means. They go on about how the public distrusts politicians and are therefore supporting a parody of the things the politicians have traditionally stood for, and how the Besti flokkurinn have come in to fill a void, and various other similar theories.

Personally I think they just liven things up a bit for everyone. And it’s true: we’re SO SICK of kreppa talk and news of corrupt politicians and all this depressing news that this is completely refreshing. These are colourful characters, and moreover very popular characters with the general public. And despite their silliness, I think a lot of people trust them a lot more than the old guard.

Plus they’ve got a kick-ass campaign video.

UPDATE: Lyrics in English and Icelandic available here. [Thanks Jeff!] My favourite election promise: A drug-free parliament by 2020. Hehehe!

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  • Lissa May 20, 2010, 12:14 am

    I can’t believe that video isn’t Iceland’s entry to Eurovision this year.

  • sigga May 20, 2010, 12:49 am

    Am involved in the local politics here in the North, as the time draws near I am so questioning my role in the whole thing, this electioneering is not much fun. I agreed to be a part of it all as I figured this way I could perhaps give something back to the community that I chose to live in, but like you say most people have had enough of politics and apathy remains. (however, within the party ranks they are all very hyped up about just about everything – it beggars belief), nevertheless I think that the bestaflokkurinn is a breath of fresh air, good luck to them and to paraphrase Geir, God bless Reykjavík….

  • North Horsies May 20, 2010, 1:50 am

    Oh man, I wanna vote!! Vote vote vote! (of course that could be problem with the whole system, where we get drawn in by a clever use of words -sometimes in a language we don’t actually speak– but how could you miss the chorus!!) Extremely well done and really with the way so many people back out of the political process because it offers no choice, there’s not a question in my mind why peoeplel say – yes we want yp make our voices heard via the ballot box, and finally a choice that at least we can hum along to!

    It would be extremely intriguing if someone would, could, should translate some of those stanzas. The whole thing seems like poetry to me – but of course, I’m mostly going on body language and the chorus. And a deep appreciation of that uniquely Icleandic sense of humor.

    They are the Best!
    Thanks!

  • Jeff Garland May 20, 2010, 2:09 am

    Lyrics in Íslenska & English here:
    http://bestiflokkurinn.is/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=154&tmpl=component&Itemid=1

    Too late for Eurovision this year, maybe next? Iceland’s Hera Björk appears to be doing well anyway.

  • JimJones May 20, 2010, 3:59 am

    Wait…I know that guy. He was on the movie I saw on the flight to Europe. He was the communist guy, Georg.

    The fact that I recognized him and have an opinion on his work shows that my Icelandophilia has gone too far now. I’ll be signing into a treatment program soon.

    In the meantime, I could see how your assessment would be right, Alda. One thing that I heard over and over again from the people that I talked to when I was in town was that everyone is sick of kreppa and doom and gloom.

  • Andrew May 20, 2010, 5:03 am

    Reminds me of the ‘Monster Raving Loony Party’ in Britain! That was set up in the 60s by a character calling himself ‘Screaming Lord Such’. It never got many votes, but was good for a laught. Interestingly, a few years ago, Such gave an interview in which he pointed out that some of the unlikely politics they came up with then actually were passed into law by mainstream parties decades later. So with your new party, you never know!

  • JB in San Diego May 20, 2010, 6:20 am

    @ Lissa, assuming your comment is a little tongue in cheek, but… I think the Eurovision entries have to be original… this is an old Tina Turner tune. Oldie but goodie.

  • Chill May 20, 2010, 8:49 am

    Is Katla likely to blow and usher in a new iceage…..have you any statistics? Thank you.

  • mary May 20, 2010, 9:47 am

    whatever it says, I like it!

  • sylvia hikins May 20, 2010, 10:52 am

    They look as if they’d be ideal to take on the IMF. The border terrier should be up for a ministerial post. Tine Turner eat your heart out. (Any translations in English available?)
    sylvia from viking wirral

  • sylvia hikins May 20, 2010, 10:53 am

    ..typo…sorry Tina!
    sylvia from viking wirral

  • Ásdís May 20, 2010, 11:39 am

    I read somewhere that Bragi from Baggalútur wrote the lyrics, which explains a lot. “allskonar fyrir aumingja” is my personal favorite along with the fantastic alliteration of “Látum horngrýtisskepnurnar hýrast í Húsdýragarðinum”.

  • Joerg May 20, 2010, 12:26 pm

    I wouldn’t agree with their proposal to reduce the number of Jólasveinar to just one in order to economise. But otherwise it sounds promising. Particularly the polar bear and the “squatters in charge” united in the zoo would provide a great entertainment.

  • Michael Lewis May 20, 2010, 1:42 pm

    I see that Iceland suffers the same problem as the UK. Career politicians.

    A bit of goolging reveleas major Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir – whilst photogenic (well, compared to what we get in the UK) – wikipedia indicates that she time spent before entering politics was … er … studying politics.
    So, someone with no knowledge of the “real world”.

    If I were there, I’d rather vote for the clowns, at least they’ve done something that isn’t just navel gazing.

  • vikingisson May 20, 2010, 2:05 pm

    This is great. Just by keeping it slightly serious and getting real numbers in the polls will drive the old guard to adopt some of the plans. This I believe is the brilliant motive, to influence the politicians.

    “Best”, that made me crack up. Tell me, that has to come from the “Beztu” hot dog stand right? http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/9FXf_9wY4558advLrjBAdA?feat=directlink

  • Dave of Maryland May 20, 2010, 3:29 pm

    In America we haven’t had a new party in 150 years.

  • A Dell May 20, 2010, 4:49 pm

    Vikingisson I’m pretty sure best just means best, as in, most good. Also the source of inspiration for that hotdog place I reckon.

  • alda May 20, 2010, 6:24 pm

    Thanks for the input, everyone!

    JimJones – well spotted! Jón Gnarr is indeed Georg Bjarnfreðarson.

    Chill – Katla shows no signs of erupting. Fingers crossed.

    Víkingsson — what A Dell said.

  • TomThumb May 20, 2010, 6:27 pm

    They have the ability to bring people together to get a task done and their performance was excellent. Even facetiously they touched upon the burning question of how to reduce the unfair financial burdens (mortgages) which have been the worst and most painful part of the kreppa. They are aware of the People’s problems. Why not elect them!

  • skr May 20, 2010, 6:33 pm

    Michael Lewis – are you implying that studying political science is removed from the real world? Actually, I would say that it is rare to find academic disciplines more in touch with the world. Contrary to popular belief political science is generally NOT about studying *politics* per say. I have two degrees in polisci and am absolutely clueless about who is who in Icelandic politics, the different parties, and what to do to get ahead. Instead, we study the various forces of power that determine what direction history takes, and this differs greatly from program to program, and each person’s focus.

    That being said…… I think Besti Flokkurinn is pretty hilarious. however, I have a hard time figuring out exactly who it is making fun of. Other politicians? or the voters, who go for whoever has the catchiest slogans and gives out most hot dogs?

  • JimJones May 20, 2010, 6:50 pm

    @alda
    Well, it’s confirmed then. I am an Iceland addict. And I don’t even have the defense of having fallen for an Icelander. I expect my friends will be staging an intervention any day now.

    Back on topic. Does what Víkingsson was talking about have precedence in Icelandic politics? I know that in the US that has been the primary influence of popular third parties(their issues were co-opted by the primary parties) but I got the impression that the hold of the primary parties in Iceland wasn’t quite as iron clad as the parties in the US.

  • Michael Schulz May 20, 2010, 7:09 pm

    It would be cynical if it wasn’t so comic. Had a good laugh. I get the impression the established parties (and government and parliament) have gone beyond learning and change. In a way they’ve outgrown Iceland as did the banks. The real tragedy is that people are hurting and its still getting worse.
    Cheers,
    Michael

  • Michael Lewis May 20, 2010, 7:14 pm

    @skr
    Not quite.

    It would bother me if legistlature, that affects businesses and people, is being carried out by people that haven’t worked in the commercial sector.

    i.e. People that have been to school, gone to University, studied politics, then become politicians.

    Such people, I can understand why they enter politics: usually no business would employ them. I can’t understand why people vote for them.

    As I said, given my google-based info on the major , I’d vote for the clowns.

    Now, if someone studied political sciences, spent a decade in any major industry and then became a politican, I might be inclined to think they’ve got an opinion worth listening to.

  • vikingisson May 20, 2010, 8:35 pm

    k, I still say that “best” is an inside joke referring to Beztu the hot dog joint. Hey if a hot dog guy is known as the best in the town then why not a political party. I certainly heard about the place long before going there and of course I had to eat one. However it was a tossup for me, I kinda liked Drekinn, good and equally funky. 🙂

    oh dear, put me down for counselling too, Icelanders Anonymous. For gringos that talk too much about Iceland and make their friends and family crazy.

    (we’ve done joke parties before, remember Pat Paulsen?)

  • vikingisson May 20, 2010, 11:40 pm

    Well who am I to presume the deep meaning of the Icelandic… The joke as I get it is still really funny to me. I don’t get them all but this is still pretty good.

  • Paul H May 22, 2010, 8:30 pm

    Jón Gnarr is now officially my (anti)hero.
    I just read his interview in the latest Reykjavik Grapevine.
    One more reason I love Iceland.
    The latest I saw was 8/15 seats, giving a clear majority, if current polls prove to turn into actual results.

  • Grif May 23, 2010, 12:08 am

    It took me the full 30 seconds to realise which song this was based on. Ohh, the shame.

    I wish we had some actual joke parties here in Belgium as in Britain they have e.g. the “Official Monster Raving Loony Party” or the “Fancy Dress Party”. Good to see Iceland now has one as well 🙂

    On another note, but still quite related, after watching the video I’m aching to head back to your country. I was considering this year’s trip but I’m not that certain any more.