From Iceland — Samfylkingin (“The Social Democratic Alliance”) Interviewed

Samfylkingin (“The Social Democratic Alliance”) Interviewed

Published April 8, 2013

Samfylkingin (“The Social Democratic Alliance”) Interviewed

1.    Briefly describe your party’s general agenda in one sentence.
The Social Democratic Alliance (SDA) advocates for economic stability and sustainable growth with equal opportunities for all in an open welfare society.
2.    Tell us about your party. What’s it all about? Does it have a history? Are you proud of that history?
The SDA is a centre-left political party that formed out of an alliance of four left-wing parties in the run up to the parliamentary elections in 1999. The SDA’s historical roots are in traditional left-wing politics, the labour unions and the fight for human rights and women’s liberation in the past century. The SDA has been in government since 2007.
3.    Is there a foreign sister party that you identify with, one that international readers might identify with?
The SDA is part of the international movement of Social Democrats.
4.    What do you consider to be the most important issue facing Iceland today? How about the most important issue to consider in this election?
Our goal is to establish a stable economy with sustainable growth, fiscal responsibility and a strong currency that does not cause inflation. We would thus like to see Iceland’s admission to the EU and adoption of the euro. The SDA emphasises a healthy prioritization of state expenses, a solid welfare system based on a diverse economy and a secure housing system, providing decent long-term conditions and interest rates for renters and buyers.
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?
Under the leadership of the SDA, we have managed to put a stop to the mounting deficit in the State Treasury so that it is now run with a surplus. At the same time, we have been able to distribute the heavy burdens resulting from a drastic reduction in national income to spare those who are least well off as much as possible. The SDA course out of the recession is one of value creation and development. We are proud of our achievements, but we also recognise that there is still much work to be done.
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?
The Report of the Special Investigation Commission states that decisions taken by Icelandic governments at the beginning of the 21st Century, not least in the years 2003–2006, set the stage for the collapse of the Icelandic banking system in 2008. The SDA bears full political responsibility for decisions and mistakes made since 2007, the year we took seat at the government table.    
7.    Specifically, how do you plan to bring Iceland back to economic prosperity?
Homes and businesses in Iceland will in the coming years need, above all, economic stability. We need to stabilise the króna, lift capital controls and make investment in Icelandic firms a feasible option. Iceland should become a member of the EU during the next term. If we achieve that we can improve standard of living and increase jobs and investment in the private sector.
8.    Do you want to weaken, strengthen or keep unchanged the regulation of the financial industry and other business activity in Iceland?
The SDA has always been at the forefront of the battle for robust regulation of the financial sector and healthy competition in the business sector for the benefit of Icelandic consumers.
9.    Do you plan to increase or decrease the total tax burden in Iceland?
We will not increase the total tax burden. We will decrease taxes on businesses and make sure that the highest income earners bear the greatest burdens of the tax system.
10.    Do you believe in the Icelandic króna? Or will you work to adopt an alternative currency? If so, which one?
Iceland needs a strong and stable currency with real value domestically as well as in foreign markets. Therefore we plan to join the EU and adopt the euro in due course.
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?
Yes, the SDA supports the law and will work diligently to lift capital controls.
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?
Opinions may vary on this issue, but most agree that the collapse of 2008 was more than an economic one and that it revealed an erosion of civil society and values of thrift and common decency in the financial and business sectors.
13.    How can the government best serve Icelandic homes?
By responsible economic management and stability. Establishing a stable currency that doesn’t cause inflation is most important for households and companies.
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 SDA plans to complete accession talks with the EU and have the nation vote on the agreement in the next term.
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?
Under the government of Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, a Constitutional Council elected by the people drafted a new constitution which it submitted to Althingi in 2011. Following a referendum in which voters were asked six questions about the draft in a referendum, a revised constitutional proposal was completed in early March. The SDA has put great emphasis on keeping the constitutional process alive so that this very important work can be finished after the April elections and the Icelandic nation can finally vote on a new constitution.
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?
The SDA emphasises the need for strong legislation in protection of Iceland’s environment and natural resources, legislation that safeguards the common ownership of all common natural resources in Iceland.
17.    Is gender equality a problem in Iceland? If so, what does your plan to do to ensure equality?
Iceland has been ranked at the top of the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report for the last four years. We are a feminist party and many important milestones have been reached in the last four years, but the fight for human rights never ends. We can still do better and we will!
18.    Where do you stand on immigration issues?
Improving the situation for immigrants is not only just, but it is also key to building a multicultural society that promotes human capital and increases diversity. Both contribute to greater creativity and broaden inventiveness. Equality, welfare, and the active participation of all members of society are the hallmark of success and a prerequisite for a competitive labour force.
The SDA has a clear vision for a multicultural society in Iceland where immigrants and their descendants have a significant role in shaping Iceland’s future. Recognition and respect for cultural diversity is a guiding principal in the SDA’s immigration action plan and policy. Parliament has passed various laws on immigration issues, such as the recent act improving the status of institutions working with immigrants. The Multicultural and Information Centre, The Immigration Council, the Development Fund for Immigrant Issues and the Strategic Plan for Immigrant Issues, that the Minister of Welfare will introduce to Parliament in autumn 2013 are examples of this. The SDA will lobby for improved legislation and an increased institutional framework for immigration and integration.
19.    Does your party harbour any ideas about the role of religion in governance?
Iceland is a multicultural society where different religions and beliefs are respected by law. We need to put greater effort into building mutual understanding, tolerance and respect for different religions and groups in society. Only then can we become a truly multi-cultural society.
20.    Are there any parties that your party will not work with in a coalition government? Why?
We are ready to work with political parties that are prepared to work with us on Icelandic society’s most pressing issues: responsible economic management and a stable economy, admission to the EU and adoption of the euro, investment in a diverse economy and a secure welfare state for all.

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