From Iceland — Interview with Einar Skúlason

Interview with Einar Skúlason

Published May 21, 2010

Interview with Einar Skúlason

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? Keep in mind that the other parties will likely respond to this question in a similar manner to yourselves. Why should we choose you over them?
Well for one, we don’t see a need to raise taxes, nor a need to raise the cost of services beyond what inflation requires. We have a three-year plan that was passed in city hall, and we want to stick to that. Also, we would like to allow people to affect how things are discussed. We are proposing a law whereby if 5% of city residents—regardless of age, we could be talking about 14-year-old students here—sign a petition asking city hall to bring up a matter for discussion, then we would be obliged to address that matter.
What have the Progressives done for the city that makes you proudest?
Children and teenagers having better chances to take part in recreational activities. During the last election, we proposed a discount card for recreational activities (“frístundakort”), which gave parents 25,000 ISK per year for recreational activities. We want to increase that amount to 40,000 ISK, as inflation has hit a lot of families hard. Also, I think it was very important that my predecessor, Óskar Bergsson, helped Hanna Birna become mayor. I think that after conflicts within city council, and the switching back and forth of majorities, this move created peace within city hall at last.
To what do you attribute the Progressive Party’s abysmal polling numbers?
The Best Party. I’m pretty sure they’re taking support from everyone. I actually expected more praise for our renewal, for our change of politics and policies. I was pretty surprised when that didn’t happen. I suppose it takes a long time to earn trust back, more than a few months or maybe even a few years.
Do you think people trust the Progressives?
Probably more so in rural areas than in urban ones. I understand it, though. In the past, the leadership of the party has taken a decidedly different direction than the grassroots. Support for the Iraq invasion is a great example of this. I’d say over 90% of Progressives were against supporting the invasion, yet (former Minister of Foreign Affairs) Halldór Ásgrímsson signed on to it. I think this is because the leadership was more caught up in creating a harmonious coalition with the Independence Party, and forgot the wishes of the people. My intention is to make the leadership and the grassroots one and the same. This is basically my last chance to do that.
Do you believe the media has focused too much on conflicts within your party?
Yes. I think it’s natural for people to disagree. In fact, I think it’s a certificate of good health for party members to disagree with each other. It’s good to have discussions on issues. It’s when parties appear unanimous that I think it’s cause to worry.
I want to give you a chance to clarify what you meant when you said that if a “þjóðstjórn”—where all parties share power in city hall, instead of there being a majority and an opposition—were to occur in Reykjavík, you wouldn’t like to see Hanna Birna as mayor.
It’s nothing personal. I also wouldn’t want to see Dagur (Eggertsson, Social Democrat candidate for mayor) or even myself as mayor in the event of a þjóðstjórn. If we had that kind of a situation, we would need a non-politically-affiliated mayor. If we’re creating a totally equal power-sharing system, it would be too complicated and unrealistic for there to be a mayor from one of the parties.

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