From Iceland — Ask An Expert: Why Are There So Few Immigrants In Parliament?

Ask An Expert: Why Are There So Few Immigrants In Parliament?

Published September 6, 2021

Ask An Expert: Why Are There So Few Immigrants In Parliament?
Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Kristinn Ingvarsson

Iceland’s immigrant population—which includes those who are now citizens, capable of voting in parliamentary elections—is over 15%, but this is not reflected in the number of immigrants currently in Parliament. How do we account for this? We asked Eva H. Önnudóttir, a professor in political science at the University of Iceland, for her take:

“There’s definitely not one simple answer to why there are so few immigrants in Parliament. But one thing that comes to mind is how recently it’s been since we’ve begun receiving a large amount of immigrants in Iceland. We’re talking about this starting around 1994 or ‘95, when immigrants began to really arrive here. It’s my understanding that it’s often the second generation of immigrants who get into politics; that is, the children of people born abroad. So maybe there’s a time factor. There may also be certain obstacles or restrictions in the system, where there’s either nothing encouraging immigrants to run for office, or maybe they’re not as connected with Icelandic society and politics as those who were born here. It could also be that immigrants, especially first generation immigrants, are paying more attention to politics in their home countries than in Iceland. So there’s really no one simple answer. But we are seeing more and more immigrants on the candidates lists of certain political parties, which is of course a good thing. It could also be that immigrants are rather participating more in municipal elections, or that political parties are not trying to reach people who aren’t yet citizens and therefore cannot yet vote in parliamentary elections.”

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