The probable results of Iceland’s upcoming elections…
This coming Saturday, Icelanders head to the polls in national elections.
The last elections, four years ago, were historic. We had just had an economic meltdown, and the previous government had collapsed. People’s fury was reflected at polls, with the Independence Party – the party that had ruled Iceland for the previous 18 years – receiving its worst result ever. A left-wing government made up of a coalition between the Social Democratic Alliance and Left-Green movement took over. Iceland had its first female prime minister, who moreover was [and is] openly gay.
To many of us, it was a foregone conclusion that this coalition would only survive for one election term. We knew they would end up massively unpopular because they had to do all the dirty work involved in cleaning up the mess of the previous shenanigans. Even so, witnessing the fact that the parties that drove this country into the ground are about to be brought back into power is a bit hard to stomach, to say the very least.
It’s pretty clear at this point that the next coalition will likely be between the Independence Party and the Progressive Party. Somewhat surprisingly, the IP is not the one leading at the polls, but rather the Progressives, who had fallen to a ridiculous low in the last elections [less than 10 percent if I remember correctly].
The fact that the IP is no longer all-powerful would be cause for jubilation if it weren’t for the fact that the Progressives are just as bad. They were in a coalition with the IP for a good long while prior to the meltdown and those two parties privatized the banks that went on to wreak such havoc on the nation. That was a brazen act so rife with corruption that it still boggles the mind that they got away with it [I wrote about it here]. The Progressive Party was instrumental in pushing through the construction of the Kárahnjúkavirkjun power plant, flying in the face of expert opinion that it would have serious effects for a multitude of reasons, both environmental and economic. Indeed, we are still contending with the effects. A few weeks ago it was revealed that the biosphere in one of Iceland’s most ecologically unique rivers – Lagarfljót – is now dead as a result of the Kárahnjúkavirkjun plant.
That construction project, which at the time was the largest in Icelandic history, was carried out because multinational giant Alcoa had crawled into bed with the Progressives – something that is well covered in the excellent documentary Dreamland. The construction of the plant ultimately created an economic environment that culminated in the meltdown. Key persons within the Progressive Party have also been linked to all manner of corruption, relating to fishing quotas, large-scale debt write-offs, and a plethora of other issues too lengthy to relate here.
Their current chairman, and the man likely to become Iceland’s next prime minister, is one Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson. He is 38 years old and the wealthiest MP in the Icelandic parliament, with net assets valued at ISK 600 million. His wife is the daughter of a quota king and she is valued at over ISK 1 billion. He, himself, admits that he is a member of the elite. According to a recent article in Fréttatíminn, he told an anecdote at a party congress a while back that described his closest brush with poverty. It went like this: he was at an event and an elderly man, who had ordered an ice cream for his grandchild, discovered that he had forgotten his wallet. The man therefore had to go without [the ice cream, that is]. Yep. That is Sigmundur Davíð’s closest brush with poverty, by his own admission.
(The rest of the article can be found here at Iceland Weather Report where it was originally published on 23 April 2013).