From Iceland — Interview With Þorbjörg Helga Vigfúsdóttir

Interview With Þorbjörg Helga Vigfúsdóttir

Published May 21, 2010

Interview With Þorbjörg Helga Vigfúsdóttir

Why should the average Reykjavík voter choose your party? What does it offer that the other parties do not, in terms of platform, policy, integrity and skill – i.e. what do you hope makes it the discerning voter’s party of choice?
Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn offers the right kind of leadership and willingness to work with and for the people.  Our motto for this election campaign is “Let’s work together”.  Since the economic collapse, we have worked hard at bringing everyone to the table to make better decisions. For example, the minority has never been such an integral part of the City administration as they are now under the leadership of Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn.  We’ve gone great lengths to recruit citizens to be a part of their local neighbourhood dialogue.
The other parties will likely respond to the above question in a similar manner to yourselves. Why should we choose you over them?
We promise to protect the basic services of the City, education and welfare and we are the only party that has promised to not raise taxes and service fees. Citizens are still experiencing pay cuts or job losses and raising taxes and fees during such conditions puts undue hardship on people.
Reykjavík is an extremely inconvenient city for those that prefer walking, biking and public transport to automobiles. One of your campaign promises before the last municipal elections was “improved public transport” — why weren’t you able to keep that promise? Is there a chance we’ll see a coherent, sensible bus schedule, bike paths and more localised recycling facilities in Reykjavík if you get elected this time around?   
I respectfully disagree; we have improved public transport by assigning more lanes as Bus Only lanes. We have done serious studies on how to improve the bus system and have implemented many changes.  Since 2006 we have expanded bike paths extensively.  That said, we need to do more and we will.
How would you account for the fact that Mayor Hanna Birna has an approval rating about twice that of her own party?
All political parties are suffering now. If you look to the US a similar thing is happening. There is a refutation of incumbency and a surge in grassroots politics. People want honesty, and they see that in Hanna Birna.  Political parties have a longer way to go to regain their reputation as an important part of the political process.
Do you stand by your party member Vilhjálmur Vilhjálmsson’s comments that “Golfing is a great pastime for the unemployed”? Was he misinterpreted – or did he really mean to say that? Why the golf course, anyway? There are lots of previously committed-to projects on the backburner due to diminishing funds – how do you justify 230 million ISK for building a golf course?   
Vilhjálmur’s words were taken out of context as he was quoting the Secretary General of the Reykjavik Golf club. The City has agreements with multiple sports clubs.  It is correct to say that many projects have been postponed and this is simply one of several agreements that will move forward to stimulate sports and recreation development for all.  It is also important to us to follow through with commitments, especially if they will create jobs.
To be honest (and I hope you won’t get offended), The Independence Party isn’t doing so great these days (to be fair, neither are the other parties). A lot of people want to blame 2008’s economic collapse on your policies and officials, for instance, No one seems very excited about believing in you nowadays. Do you feel like you lost the voters’ trust? Why do you think that happened? How do you propose to regain your position as Iceland’s most popular and trusted party, and do you foresee that being an arduous task?  
We did lose trust, as did much of the political establishment. Thankfully, many voters kept their trust in us and we still have a strong position in parliament and municipal governments around the country.  As people see that we are honest and on their side, we are regaining voter trust.  It is a long road, but I am confident that we will prevail. We believe that the restrictive and tax-raising policies of the current government are not the way out of the recession and that we should rather trust in private enterprise and the power that resides within individuals. If we work together as equals, we can rebuild.

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