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The times they are a-changin’

So as expected, the Social Democratic Party and the Left-Greens look set to continue their collaboration in the wake of yesterday’s elections. This despite that pesky disagreement on the EU: the SDP want to enter into talks with the European Union immediately, whereas the LGs are adopting a more cautious stance and want a national referendum to be held on whether or not talks should commence – and, in the event of a go-ahead, another referendum on whether or not to join the EU. The latter makes perfect sense to YT, the former not. Referendums cost money, and it just seems like an undue waste of time and resources.

The general sentiment in Icelandic society is overwhelmingly pro-EU-talks at the moment; anyone with half an ear to the ground can pick up on that. I wish they’d stop beating around the fricking bush and just get on with it. How risky can TALKING be, f’rcryingoutloud? It’s not like those big old ogres at the EU are going to gobble us up at the first sign of weakness.

The two parties seem absolutely set on resolving their differences so they can work together, in fact they’re like a mutual-admiration society all the way, just love being together. And to be sure, they’re a far better match than that ill-fated Independence Party-SDP coalition a couple years back … gah! I’m sure most of us would like to forget that awful blemish on this country’s political history. Just the thought of it makes me cringe. Meanwhile it seems pretty obvious that the LGs are going to be the ones to back down on the EU issue, although they’ll probably try to spin it somehow with that referendum so they can at least save face a little bit. My suspicion is that they would have liked to have reneged on it sometime in the last week when the EU issue received a major boost and was on everyone’s lips, but they just couldn’t do it. Too close to the elections, and it would have been too much of a disgrace. Instead they’ll manage to wangle their way out of it somehow, without looking like they’re breaking a promise.

Anyway, the dark horse in these elections and the one I’m most enthusiastic about is the Citizens’ Movement, which formed as a direct result of the protests that were ongoing here last fall and winter. The movement is a mere nine weeks old and, as I mentioned in the last post, had no real budget for running a campaign, and yet they received over seven percent of the votes and got four seats in parliament. To me that just goes to show how the times they are a-changing’ around here, and I’m thrilled that all our intensive protesting last fall has borne fruit. Like two of their spokespeople said: “Last fall we were banging on the windows of the parliament buildings to be let in. Today, we ARE in. The voices of the people will be heard in parliament.” To me, that’s just amazing. LONG LIVE DEMOCRACY!!

One other newsworthy bit: never before in Iceland’s history have as many women been elected to parliament. They now account for 43 percent of MPs, which is just great.

Seriously, all this fills me with great hope.

LOVELY DAY, MUCH LIKE YESTERDAY
With a hazy cloud cover and occasional sun peeking out from behind it. Minimal wind. Right now 9°C [48F], the sun came up at 5:17 am and set at 9:36 pm.

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  • Physchim62 April 27, 2009, 10:02 am

    This cartoon from Halldor in Morgunblaðið amused me (doesn’t take much…)
    http://mbl.is/halldor/2009/04/23/eurotour/

    For those who don’t follow Halldor’s work, the guy gagged and tied onto the back of the bus is Steingrímur J. Sigfússon, chairman of the Left-Greens and finance minister.

  • Lee, UK April 27, 2009, 10:05 am

    The success of that Citizen’s Movement seems pretty radical. Who will occupy the 4 seats they’ve won, eg the protest leaders of a few months ago? Iceland’s is definitely more “democratic” than Britain’s

  • Lee, UK April 27, 2009, 11:13 am

    My attempt above to add HREF tags failed! I meant to add that the Citizen’s Movement’s seats show that Iceland’s proportional representation is definitely more “democratic” than Britain’s single-winner voting system…

  • Ljósmynd DE April 27, 2009, 11:35 am

    There seem to exist different opinions within the EU concerning the question, if new countries will be admitted into the EU prior to the Treaty of Lisbon being ratified by all current EU-members. So, for Iceland there might be some obstacles on the road towards EU-membership as far as this is supposed to be a fast track. Is this being on discussed in Icelandic media?

  • Vikingisson April 27, 2009, 12:26 pm

    Things are a-changin, we hope. Nice to see some minor radical moves. The one thing that worries me is the coalition love fest. Getting along and moving democracy ahead according to the people’s wishes and sensible compromise is great but if they spend too much time saying how much they adore their esteemed colleagues then I call B.S. and say they love the corrupt money equally and not the politics. If they loved each other that much they’d be one party. But let’s hope they can actually get along.
    Great news that women have grabbed a huge part of the power. Agreed, why vote on EU talks, vote on EU membership. Important topic but it won’t affect the short term recovery plans. Oh yeah, anyone talking about giant greenhouses yet?

  • Physchim62 April 27, 2009, 6:21 pm

    Come senators, congressmen
    Please heed the call

    Don’t stand in the doorway
    Don’t block up the hall
    For he that gets hurt
    Will be he who has stalled
    There’s a battle outside
    And it is ragin’.
    It’ll soon shake your windows
    And rattle your walls
    For the times they are a-changin’.

  • Norton April 27, 2009, 10:32 pm

    Do you think the Citizen’s Movement will have a lasting presence in the althing, or was this more of a protest vote? (Birth of a new party is pretty interesting to see)

  • alda April 27, 2009, 10:57 pm

    Thanks for the input, everyone.

    LDE – yes, this is being discussed, as is the most opportune time to seek entry. Reportedly some nations have already pledged support for Iceland joining, as has the EU’s Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn. The Nordic countries would like to see Iceland join (well, except Norway) and the EU chair will be Sweden as of this June, hence the word is that this is the best time to start talks.

    Norton – they’ve said that they’ll only stay for as long as it takes them to exhaust their agenda. None of them really want to be MPs for life, I think.

  • Andrew April 28, 2009, 3:02 am

    One thing I’ve just discovered. Do Icelanders realise that as Iceland is a member of the European Economic Area (a sort of associate EU membership), the country is effectively already halfway into the European Union? Norway is another EEA member. That’s why Iceland’s membership talks could be very fast.

  • tom joseph aka tj3 April 29, 2009, 7:43 am

    …changing times is what good elections are all about. Congratulations to Iceland for making peaceful progress.

    Big change or small we can only wish here in the USA that we get on with it, past electing Barak Obama and being rid of George Bush.

    While there are technically many political party’s in the USA none of them count except two. I bet you guys have heard of them. We have no EU to join or not join here. Thus Iceland is a better example of possibly trying forward movement than we are.

    Anyway wish you all the best.

  • Andrew April 29, 2009, 11:05 am

    This article warns Iceland not to jump into the EU straight away. It suggests that there are other options, at least to use as bargaining counters. Will this new government explore all options do you think?

    “Iceland must cast the right bait to hook the euro club”
    Bronwen Maddox, Chief Foreign Commentator

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/bronwen_maddox/article6188416.ece

  • colin buchanan April 29, 2009, 5:31 pm

    Good news about the Citizens Movement. What interests me is their programme. Can anyone point to anything in English by or about them.