2017 somehow managed to top 2016 in terms of politics that seemed to surpass everyone’s expectations, both in positive and negative ways, and Iceland was no exception. So let’s take a look back on the year that was.
Worst Political Ideas Of The Year
The worst decision, without a doubt, was the formation of this previous coalition in the first place. Not even Bright Future chair Óttarr Proppé sounded entirely convinced that it was a good idea. The running theory around the office is that all his justifications for putting Bjarni Benediktsson in the Prime Minister’s seat were really attempts to convince himself.
Silencing tactics were popular in 2017, and they backfired spectacularly. There was a time in Iceland when the media was fairly subservient to the sitting government; access to powerful people was more important than bringing the truth to the general public. As more independent media outlets came to the forefront of public attention, information began to take precedence, and so the same political tactics that may have worked 10 years ago fell flat this year. When Minister of Justice Sigríður Andersen went beyond her legal power to block access to information regarding who endorsed restoring the civil standing of a convicted paedophile, instead of killing the story, this became a story in itself. When an injunction was filed against the magazine Stundin, blocking them from reporting on Bjarni’s financial dealings, again this sparked a Streisand Effect—rather than making the story go away, it actually made people even more curious about what Bjarni had been doing with his money in the days following the 2008 crash. We’d like to think that going forward, politicians will learn that attempting to kill a news story so bluntly will only make matters worse.
Probably the worst political decision made in 2017 was Bright Future opting to leave the ruling coalition, bringing about the collapse of the government. This decision, however necessary it might have been for the country, proved downright suicidal for the party itself. Conservatives who might have supported Bright Future hated them for pulling the rug out from under the Independence Party, and leftists who might have supported Bright Future hated them for giving Bjarni the power to call for snap elections with almost no time to prepare a decent campaign. Almost no one, apart from maybe some of Bright Future’s most devoted voters, gave the party any credit for bringing an end to our national nightmare. In the end, their support dropped like a stone in a vacuum, and they lost all their seats in parliament when elections were held last October.
Best Political Ideas Of The Year
The top spot in this category is, again, Bright Future opting to leave the ruling coalition. How can it simultaneously be the worst and best decision of the year? Well, it may have been disastrous for the party itself, but let’s not forget what happened in the wake of this. First of all, the Independence Party not only lost their leadership position; they actually took quite a hit in the elections themselves. Two new parties, the People’s Party and the Centre Party, managed to make their way into parliament, further diversifying the ideological landscape. It also gave us Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, who has so far proven to be a wildly popular leader, and seems to be a Prime Minister most people actually trust. For better or worse, most Icelanders polled seem to be happy with our new ruling coalition, for a change.
It’s not often that a person feels a sense of relief when a former politician announces their return to politics, but much relief was felt when Helgi Hrafn Gunnarsson announced he would run again for MP for the Pirate Party. This decision almost makes up for Birgitta Jónsdóttir’s departure. Like Birgitta, Helgi is also a determined idealist; let’s not forget this man once confronted Icelandic xenophobes, who were protesting changes to the Law on Foreigners, making a noble attempt to show them exactly what the law said and why they were completely misinformed (not that things like facts ever have any effect on xenophobes). But more than ideals, Helgi has offered practical solutions that could make those ideals a reality.
In terms of sheer comedy value, nothing was more amusing this election cycle than Sigmundur Davíð founding the Centre Party. Get forced out of office and lose your party leadership position when your shady financial dealings are brought to light? Most people would simply retire, and then write lengthy memoirs filled with passive-aggressive missives against their former colleagues. Not our Simmi! In the same spirit that a child kicked off the football team would take his ball and go home, Simmi founded a party with virtually no platform beyond pure self-serving, with a logo that reminded most people of Robot Unicorn Attack, and attracted all the worst members of the Progressive Party. In doing so, the Progressive Party is now something resembling its previous form—an old-fashioned centrist agrarian party—without losing a single seat in parliament. In short, the Centre Party is pretty much the best thing that could have happened to the Progressives.