When is history a reliable predictor of future events? The last time a left-wing party formed a government with the Conservatives, it was subsequently mercilessly punished at the polls. The same thing happened the time before—and the time before that. Now that the Left-Greens have united with the Independence Party, it’s most likely that the same thing will happen again. The bet is more about how long it will last. I give it a year.
But in other ways, this is a game changer. Almost a decade after the economic collapse, there has been a realignment of sorts. No one looks to the free market as a solution to all ills anymore. Instead, most parties at least pay lip service to the notion of strengthening infrastructure, the health system, education and so on. So, what then is the difference between left and right?
Probably not that much, which makes this—the first government in 70 years to be made up of parties from opposing ends of the spectrum—possible. Will that mean there will be no heated debates any more, and nothing to choose between?
Hardly. One thing that connects all three parties of the newly formed government, left, right and centre, is opposition to the EU. Meanwhile, there is an informal opposition alliance of the Reform Party, the Social Democrats and the Pirates, which favour putting EU membership to a referendum. These parties, unlike the current government, mostly also want to open up the Icelandic market to foreign farm products to lower prices, get rid of the króna and even rehash the quota system of the fisheries.
The old left and right division may soon become a relic of the 20th Century. After all, do class politics really have much truck when the poorest, as well as the richest, tend to vote right while educated elites vote left?
Instead, the new division seems to be between nationalism and internationalism. It is this that unites the government and provides a credible alternative in the opposition. The same thing is happening all over, but sometimes things happen in Iceland first. It’s canary time again.