From Iceland — Dögun (“Dawn”) Interviewed

Dögun (“Dawn”) Interviewed

Published April 8, 2013

Dögun (“Dawn”) Interviewed

1. Briefly describe your party’s general agenda in one sentence.
Dögun fights for justice, fairness and democracy, as mandated in our core policy statement.
2. Tell us about your party. What’s it all about? Does it have a history? Are you proud of that history?
Only a year old, Dögun is the offspring of several political parties, grassroots organisations and individuals who fight for necessary improvements. Among the parties that make up Dögun are a strong and reunited Borgarahreyfingin (“Citizens’ Movement”) and Hreyfingin (“The Movement”)—political arms of “the Pots and Pans Revolution”—along with Frjálslyndi flokkurinn (“The Liberal Party”), a former Alþingi party with experience and good policy input. There are also a number of previously unaffiliated individuals, including two who sat on the Constitutional Assembly. Although two other parties have branched out from the Dögun core, we are proud of the democratic steps that our party has taken in its short history.
3. Is there a foreign sister party that you identify with, one that international readers might identify with?
Not per se, we harbour no formal connections. Participants in “the Pots and Pans Revolution” identify with many movements, such as the global 99% movement. There has been an increase in a variety of activism all over the world, and the basis for this has been a call for democratic improvements, social fairness, judicial and political justice and less inequality, with a redistribution of wealth from the super wealthy and powerful 1% to the rest of us, the 99%. Dögun identifies with most of these movements.
4. What do you consider the most important issue facing Iceland today? How about the most important issue to consider in this election?
Dögun’s core policy statement answers this question: Our emphasis is on strong economic measures, which include ending the price indexing of loans, lowering the debt burden of households and legalising a minimum ‘standard of living’ index for citizens. We also want to secure the new constitution drafted by the Constitutional Assembly; this includes a complete overhaul of matters pertaining to Iceland’s natural resources and a reshuffling of the fishing quota system, bringing about a fair justice system and introducing tangible codes of ethics into politics and business.
5. What do you admire about the current coalition government and what it accomplished in the last four years? What do you dislike? What will you do better?
The current left-wing government is no doubt what voters ordered in 2009, and it would only have benefited from bringing on board the MPs of the Citizens’ Movement. This government started off well enough with a monumental task before it, but things have turned sour in the latter half of its term. The government’s emphasis on ensuring that crude measures after the economic crash would not fall hardest on the poor, the sick and families is admirable, but it has failed miserably in securing the new constitution, reshuffling the fishing quota system and enforcing measures to lower household debts. Dögun will do better in these fields, stressing that all solutions be based on interests of common people, rather than those of banks and wealthy individuals.
6. Was the financial crisis in 2008 and the problems Iceland now faces in some way caused by government policy and action or the lack thereof? Is your party in some way responsible for this? Why or why not?
Our party and affiliated parties were founded after the crisis and in response to it, so we are not responsible aside from our part in the Icelandic nation’s general apathy prior to the crisis. The blame for the crisis has been, in various reports, deemed to be mostly that of the bank moguls and the governments that led the country in the years prior. Politicians are mostly to blame for the ill thought out, neoliberal privatisation of the banks and a poor auditing and surveillance system. They are also responsible for several decisions that were more in line of the interests of the banks and other corporations than the interests of the households and the public.
7. Specifically, how do you plan to bring Iceland back to economic prosperity?
We must take complex measures that increase national production and secure that prosperity benefits all, not a chosen few. Dögun places an emphasis on abolishing the price indexing of household loans, decreasing the debt burden of homes, putting a cap on interest rates and legalising a minimum ‘standard of living’ index.
8. Do you want to weaken, strengthen or keep unchanged the regulation of the financial industry and other business activity in Iceland?
We want to strengthen it. However, the law mostly provides a sufficient framework; the problem rather lies with its enforcement.
9. Do you plan to increase or decrease the total tax burden in Iceland?
The tax burden should only increase temporarily, to get us over the crisis, and it should mostly fall on those who can take on an increased burden. The personal deduction rate should be lifted for the benefit of the lowest income classes. A general increase in taxes is not a must.
10. Do you believe in the Icelandic króna? Or will you work to adopt an alternative currency? If so, which one?
The króna is a weak currency with many drawbacks. Dögun is open to a currency change or currency co-operation, but otherwise wants the nation itself to decide whether to join the EU and hence adopt the Euro.
11.Do you support the newly passed law removing an expiration date from Iceland’s capital controls? Will your party work to lift these controls? Does it have a timeframe in mind?
Here is our general stance on this: “To confront the unsustainable debt/asset ratio within our economy, and capital controls, we propose a composite action plan that includes currency trading at variable rates or other forms of correcting the debt/asset ratio, with a steep and temporary tax on currency outflux—and establishing a windfall-tax. At the same we need to explore every way to establish a healthy currency exchange and either link the Icelandic króna to a foreign currency basket—or instate a new Icelandic króna. With these actions and in collaboration with our neighbouring states, and with potential access to mutual plans to increase financial health in international markets through the EU and EEA, we must tune the Icelandic economy into a sustainable balance.”
12. Do you believe that the collapse was more than an economic one? If so, what else failed in 2008 and does it still need fixing?
The collapse had economic and political roots, as well as social ones such as apathy and co-dependency. The Special Investigation Commission’s report describes well the complex interactions that led to it. The whole society failed, but mostly those in power, those with power to make the relevant decisions.
13. How can the government best serve Icelandic homes?
We’ve mentioned the debt burden. Aside from that, the government must secure jobs, minimum wages and standard of living, and a robust welfare system. Many things that would benefit all Icelanders will be secured through the new constitution.
14. What is your stance on Iceland’s application to the European Union? Do you ultimately think Icelanders’ interests would be best served by being part of this coalition?
The nation should be the decider. Dögun does not directly answer the question with a yes or a no. Dögun believes that the application negotiations should first reach an agreement that the Icelandic nation can then decide upon. As for voting on whether to stop the negotiations or finish them through, Dögun will respect the voters’ wishes in accordance with relevant articles in the bill for a new constitution.
15. What is your stance on the new constitution that was called for in the wake of Iceland’s financial crisis? Are you for or against pushing the current draft through parliament? Why or why not?
Dögun is strongly behind the constitutional draft of the Constitutional Assembly and demands that Alþingi enact it.
16. Will your party do something to protect the land and its resources? Is a more stringent regulative framework needed to ensure conservation of the environment?
Dögun has a green stance regarding environmental issues. The regulative framework needs an overhaul but mostly it is a question of enforcing what exists. We are not in favour of adding countless new dams and big business factories.
17. Is gender equality a problem in Iceland? If so, what does your plan to do to ensure equality?
Yes, gender equality is a problem here. Within Dögun there is a strict rule on gender equality and we take pride in enforcing it. We would like the same to apply in society in general.
18. Where do you stand on immigration issues?
Dögun has a progressive stance on these matters. Our policy states: “We want that those who wish to live in Iceland to come here with a proper purpose and be able to support themselves, to be able to stay here and take part in Icelandic society.”
19. Does your party harbour any ideas about the role of religion in governance?
As for separation of the church and state, Dögun has not taken a unified stance yet, but it is likely that the majority would vote on such a separation and be of the opinion that politics and religion do not mix. Aside from this, Dögun supports the new constitution and the will of the people and in the referendum last October, the people decided that there should be a clause on a national church/religion. So perhaps it is more a question of whether the nation supports a particular religious organisation or Christianity in general.
20. Are there any parties that your party will not work with in a coalition government? Why?
Before the coming elections, Dögun will state officially with whom it is ready to work. Based on discussions over the last months, it can be said that one party in particular is unlikely to be on such a list: the right wing Sjálfstæðisflokkur (“Independence Party”), which should be out of power at least one more term.

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