Election night in Iceland, 2016. The nation is still smarting from the Panama Papers scandal that collapsed the government and prompted these elections. But as the results came in, it became clear that the Independence Party—despite several of its members, including current Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson, being implicated in the scandal—was gaining seats.
As Minister of Fisheries Kristján Þór Júlíusson, who belongs to the Independence Party, was granting a live interview at an election party in Akureyri, a young man stepped into the middle of the exchange, looked directly at the camera, and angrily demanded to know:
Video uploaded by Lára Hanna Einarsdóttir
“Why does no one remember the financial crash and Tortola?,” he said, referring to the site of the offshore company where then Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson was keeping money. “Why is everyone feeding the bird of prey?,” referring to the falcon, symbol of the Independence Party.
Those six seconds became a viral hit, and the young man in question, Áki Frostason, found himself in the media spotlight overnight. While he has for years declined requests for interviews, he has finally come forward to give his side of the story about that fateful night.
It all began with satire
“A week before the elections, me and my friend and comrade Jón Haukur Unnarsson got the idea to engage in a week long satirical performance for our own amusement and social experiment,” Áki tells us. “The goal was to become and live as young enthusiastic supporters of the Progressive Party.”
To look the part, Áki says they scoured secondhand stores for “sixpence hats and farmer-style suits,” decorating their downtown Akureyri apartment to be an unofficial election office for the Progressives, even going so far as to design a poster featuring Sigmundur and order flags from the central office (which were at first approved by the party but then mysteriously denied).
“After having stenciled and raised our own flag with the party’s logo, we used the rest of the week preceding the elections to visit the election office of each political party in candidacy and debate with them on why the Progressive Party was indeed the party to vote for,” he says. “This we all did wearing our acquired clothing and brooches with their logo.”
Staying in character, breaking from character
Áki and Jón Haukur committed to the bit, spending much of election evening at the Progressive Party office in Akureyri, and even getting a sweet photo op with Sigmundur himself.But then the official numbers began to come in.
“After a while it became clear to us that what we thought was almost unimaginable was happening,” he says. “The parties that were responsible for the corruption that caused the dissolution of parliament resulting in these very elections, were gaining enough votes to form an even riskier looking government than before. At this point our whole week of mocking the Progressive Party didn’t seem amusing anymore, so we rid ourselves of the [party] brooches and started heading home.”
Along the way, they passed the election office of the Independence Party, and Áki “spontaneously had the idea that we should go in there and express our discontent in one way or another.” Jón Haukur wasn’t entirely convinced, and so the two went their separate ways, with Áki joining the party.
“Not knowing what I was really there for, I felt a bit weird amongst all these fancy dressed people, whilst still wearing my farmer’s uniform, and not really knowing anybody in there,” he says. “As I was standing there in my confusion I saw that a news reporter was preparing to interview Kristján Þór Júlíusson on a live TV election broadcast. When I realised this, it quite naturally came to my mind that this would be my grounds of expression, so I quickly summed up something I could say that would express my discontent in very few words. Not long after they started interviewing him I sneaked through the crowd and communicated what I had thought about directly to the camera, just managing to finish what I wanted to say before Kristján Þór gently pushed me away, softly pinching my chin while doing so.”
An overnight sensation
“After this I walked straight out of the election office and went to an election night gathering at a friend’s place,” Áki continues. “I hadn’t realised how I had exposed myself until I arrived there, only to confront intense greetings because all of them had seen me on the television.
Later that night when I arrived home, I also found out that my face was a headline on several different Icelandic media platforms, which I thought was a bit of an overreaction to this little intervention.”
This was followed by weeks of calls from various media outlets requesting interviews, which Áki declined, as he didn’t want “to turn [himself] into a media circus show.”
“I did, however, sometimes get approached by people on the street who mostly either liked what I said, or were just amused by my appearance.”
Would do it all again
Áki says the act was “entirely spontaneous” and came “quite purely,” adding, “I wouldn’t hesitate if I were to magically relive the scenario even knowing that it might result in more attention that I’m generally comfortable with.”
When asked if he feels the nation has learned anything since 2016, he concludes: “I will just repeat my media phrase: I spoke my mind already and there is nothing more to say.”
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