There is considerable anticipation regarding the upcoming elections in Reykjavík. Going into the election, it looks as if the Independent Party might win back City Hall. For decades, The Independence Party had a stronghold on city elections, receiving a majority in every election from 1930 – 1994, with the exception of one term, 1978-1982.
In 1994, other parties formed a political coalition and subsequently won the election that year, and they have managed to maintain power in City Hall for three terms. Negotiations for the continued co-operation of the parties in the coalition fell through last year. As a result, The Progressive Party now faces extinction. According to the latest IMG Gallup poll, the party would not get a representative voted on city council if the election were held today.
The turmoil surrounding the coalition has put the Independence party in a favourable position. According to the same IMG Gallup poll, the party would receive 49% support in the city elections, enough to put eight people on city council, thereby securing a majority.
In terms of politics, the race for City Hall is really a race for bragging rights. There are no clean-cut lines in form of ideological differences between the parties.
“I can understand that people have a difficult time seeing the difference between the different campaigns,” Social Democrat mayoral candidate Dagur B. Eggertson told The Grapevine, possibly offering the understatement of the year. “People seem to have laid down their arms and come to an agreement over certain issues.”
The location of the Reykjavík airport has been blown up to be a big issue, which is curious, considering that the issue was put to the polls in the 2002 elections and the decision to relocate it has already been made. All the parties, with the exception of the Liberal Party, have agreed that the airport should be relocated. There is a committee looking at different options for the relocation, but it is not expected to reach conclusions any time soon.
Other issues that have been in focus are the costs of day care for pre-schoolers and the conditions of the elderly and traffic congestion. On all issues, the parties are more or less in total agreement. At the end of the day, this will probably be the most boring campaign fight in the history of man. During the last elections, at least we had two candidates that hated each other.
The total number of registered voters in Reykjavík in the upcoming elections is 86,000. Every Icelandic citizen above the age of 18 is eligible to vote. In addition, all foreign citizens who have had legal residence in Iceland for at least five years on election day, i.e. from May 27th 2001, and are at least 18 years old have the right to vote and run for seats in the city elections. Scandinavian citizens (Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish nationals) have the right to vote after three years residence in Iceland prior to Election Day, i.e. from May 27th 2003. The number of foreign citizens with voting rights in the city elections is about 2300.
The Independence Party
Primary candidate: Vilhjálmur Þ. Vilhjálmsson. 60-year-old lawyer and a current member of the city council.
The Independence Party has built their campaign platform around the curious slogan “Time to live.” The slogan, and the platform, is based on a poll that revealed that 95% of the people of Reykjavík want to spend more time with their family. Well, Reykjavíkians, you asked for it, you got it. The Independence Party, the corporate watchdog, has figured out how you can spend more time with your family with an innovative four point plan.
Not really. The innovative plan consists of reducing the costs of pre-school (at least they are not promising to make it free like everyone else), integrating schools, sports and arts, as well as muddled statements like improving schools by letting parents be more active in school administration. Now that is innovation.
Other platform highlights include: New developments and apartment buildings, solving traffic congestion problems with better flow through bigger intersections, preferably by placing key traffic veins in tunnels under the city, and better care for the elderly.
And the airport?
Well, they have spoken very vaguely about the airport, but they have said that the airport should be relocated.
I know this may all sound about as fresh and innovative, as the Hey Ya song did when you heard it on the radio for the 8000th time that month. The Independence Party knows this as well, they are just saying they are better equipped at executing this joint platform.
Social Democratic Party
Primary Candidate: Dagur B. Eggertsson. 33-year-old doctor and a current member of city council.
“Personally I would want to improve the competitiveness of the city,” Eggertsson told the Grapevine. “We need to build a city that is competitive with the best cities in the world,” mayoral candidate Dagur B. Eggertson answered when asked to spell out what issues he would want to emphasise if he gained power in City Hall.
“We must place an emphasis on developing a campus area and a knowledge industry around the universities, we need to promote the financial sector, tourism and the smart economy. The foundation for this is to strengthen the service level of the city and the welfare of our citizens,” he added.
The Social Democrats have proposed developmental plans for 6000 new apartments in the Reykjavík area. “The city needs to focus on diversity, not just luxury. We have to make a housing rental market a viable option for people,” Eggertsson told us.
In addition to suggesting new development plans, the platform highlights include: Improved care for the elderly, making pre-school free, integrating grade school, sports and arts, improving schools by letting parents be more active in school administration and improving public transportation. They also propose to solve traffic congestion problems with better flow through bigger intersections, preferably by placing key traffic veins in tunnels under the city.
And the airport?
“The decision regarding the airport should be taken in a professional manner, with no rush of judgement,” Eggertson said. Whatever that means in terms of their position, the party in has, in the past, claimed the airport should be relocated.
Primary candidate: Svandís Svavarsdóttir. 41-year-old linguistic and sign-language interpreter.
As indicated by their name, The Leftist-Green Movement is a left-leaning, environmental-friendly political movement.
“Personally, I would like to see both pre-schools and grade schools free of charge. That includes both day-care centres and school meals,” Svandís Svavarsdóttir, the party’s primary candidate, told The Reykjavík Grapevine when asked what issues she would place the most focus on. As luck has it, she might see her pet projects come to fruition even if she is not elected, thanks to the joint campaign platform of the parties. But, at least they were the first to raise that issue.
”I would also want to eliminate gender-based wage inequality, and fight for the equal opportunity and rights of the sexes. A key aspect would be to revoke wage confidentiality. It is a tool that is used to safeguard the current wage-difference between the sexes,” Svavarsdótt-ir added.
The Leftist-Greens would also like to promote multiculturalism, arts and culture in the city, Other platform highlights include: Better care for the elderly, better public transportation, building underground tunnels for bigger traffic veins. School, sports, arts… whatever, you get the picture.
And the airport?
“The airport is a non-issue. It has already been decided that it will be moved in 2016. But the decision on where it will be moved to will not even be made in this term. I don’t know why this is even a campaign issue. We have said that we like Hólmsheiði as an option. But, of course, this is not a decision that should be taken without a wide cross-political agreement.”
The Progressive Party
Primary candidate: Björn Ingi Hrafnsson. 33-year-old history student, currently working as an assistant to Prime Minister Halldór Ásgrímsson
The Progressive party has suffered for their bad campaign management. They have campaigned heavily on the issue of the relocation of the Reykjavík airport. They want to locate the airport on Löngusker, a landfill just outside the shores of Reykjavík. It is too bad that it turned out that the land where they plan to relocate the airport does not belong to Reykjavík city, but rather the neighbouring municipality Seltjarnarnes, and it is a part of a natural reserve.
Their platform also proposes that smaller and more efficient cars be promoted. That proposal has been somewhat offset by the campaign manager and the candidates driving around in a huge, black Hummer H2, the world’s most environmentally un-friendly car, with the party’s logo splashed all over it. That bad idea turned really ugly when they managed to park it in a handicapped zone where it was subsequently photographed. The photos have been held up for scorn and ridicule on every Internet discussion forum in Iceland.
Other platform highlights include: Better care for the elderly, solving traffic congestion problems with more underground tunnels, free public transportation for the elderly, students and the disabled, free pre schools, improved diet in school cafeterias, school uniforms and better integration of sports and arts in the city’s school system.
To their defence, The Progressive Party promises to make Reykjavík a fun city. They propose a water slide park, an aquarium in Laugardalur and making admission to all city-owned museums free of charge. This is what politics should really be about.
Primary candidate: Ólafur F. Magnússon. 54-year-old doctor and a current member of city council.
“I am a doctor, and that has shaped my opinions in a lot of ways. We want to focus on welfare and environmental issues,” said Magnússon, the party’s primary candidate. “We want to build our campaign around the people who need the assistance the most, the elderly and the disabled.”
The key issue for The Liberal Party is the location of the Reykjavík Airport. This is the only party that has taken a firm position against the relocation of the airport. This is really curious, as this issue was put on the ballot in the last city elections, and the citizens of Reykjavík voted to relocate the airport.
Other platform highlights promise: More beds in nursing homes and increased home-care services for the elderly, free public transportation for the young, the elderly and the disabled and improving access for people with disabilities, and lowering property taxes for the elderly.
“Everyone seems to agree on the need to improve the conditions of the elderly,” Magnússon said. “The problem is that some parties don’t deliver on their promises. We don’t have a backpack of unfulfilled promises like some other candidates do.”