Published September 3, 2004
Halldór had then been Prime Minister in Davíð Oddsson’s government for eight years, and seems to have been loath to change partners. Oddsson, who still had the largest number of votes, had to outbid his rivals, as the Progressive Party were the only feasible partners. However, after 12 years of Premiership he could not look as if he had lost the election. So they came up with a compromise solution where Oddsson retained his chair for a year, before allowing Halldór to take his turn. This has led to a general cabinet reshuffling, which seemed to move Oddsson into foreign affairs, and has left minister of the environment Siv Friðleifsdóttir out in the cold, angering the party´s female constituents. What any of this has to do with democracy is anyone´s guess. But another question is: where does the Independence Party go from here?
Its core has always been big business:Eimskip shipping company and Icelandair, the two companies that controlled access to and from the country being the backbone, a conglomerate known as the Octopus. Now the Octopus has been broken up, and the major financial power players, Björgúlfur of Landsbankinn and Jón Ásgeir of Bónus, do not form part of the old ruling elite. Jón Ásgeir does not belong to the Independence Party and seems more disposed towards Samfylkingin.
So what does the party do when it not longer represents big business? Two courses of action seem open. It might, as it has done in the past, incorporate the nouveau riche into its ranks. But the animosity between it and them seems too deeply rooted to go away anytime soon, although there´s nothing as likely to bring old adversaries together as hope of financial gain.
The other possibility is more interesting. What if the party has lost its ties to the money men forever? What if the new króna billionaires opt for Samfylkingin instead, as they have been doing? The Independence Party was the party that upheld the old family monopolies over the economy. Now that new families have moved in, it may become the very party to go in for breaking monopolies up. They´ve already tried, and failed, to impose a media law. Who knows what’s next? Perhaps they’ll set laws in motion that allow us to see who is funding what party. When they had money on their side, they had no interest in that, but now that this has changed, so may their policy. The party might then be forced to become what they always said they were, the party of the people. Wouldn´t that be ironic?