The results of last May’s city elections have left more than a few people disappointed, particularly in Reykjavík. We now have a majority coalition that is making plans to build a suburban-style community on the island of Geldinganes, the necessity of which is questionable, considering there is plenty of available space in the downtown area for new residences (such as those being built on Skúlagata and being planned for Vatnsmýri) and will serve only to stretch the city’s power grid further, which may be reflected in our utility bills. This coalition has also said that eliminating a lot of traffic lights along Miklabraut and Hringbraut will be “environmentally friendly” because cars won’t have to stop as often – completely ignoring the fact that such a move effectively creates a highway running straight down the middle of the city, which is anything but environmentally friendly, not to mention the traffic and safety concerns it raises. This coalition has also promised to do more for the city’s car owners in a city that already devotes 50 percent of its space to cars in the form of roads and parking spaces, without putting much if any energy into transportation alternatives such as mass transit, bike paths and pedestrian-only streets, for those of us already paying for the maintenance and repair to city streets that cars necessitate, whether we own cars or not. And these are just points in the area of planning.
However, we only have ourselves to blame – voter turn-out for municipal elections was at 77 percent; the lowest it’s been in a long time. It could be that the other 23 percent didn’t see any party that had something to offer them. For 5,424 of the city’s residents – Reykjavík’s immigrant population, who comprise nearly five percent of the city – this is especially the case. While the Leftist-Green Party and, to some extent, the Social Democrats both included in their platforms issues that reflect the needs of the immigrant community, these issues didn’t see a lot of visibility during the campaign, for whatever reason. The other parties didn’t even seem to have an immigrant platform.
But all’s fair in love and politics: each party has the right to decide who they want to represent, and to prioritise which issues will get the greatest visibility. For this reason, I’ve come to the decision that since no party seems to place enough (or sometimes any) importance on immigrant issues, the time has come for a party that does just that. In other words, I intend to form such a party, which will run for a seat on Reykjavík city council in the 2010 elections.
This party, which I will tentatively call the Innflytjendaflokkurinn (The Immigrant’s Party) is open to anyone; immigrants and Icelanders alike. Our primary platform will be issues that concern the immigrant community: the cost and availability of Icelandic language classes, education about labour rights, the ability to get an education – for ourselves and our children, fighting discrimination and the general promotion of both multiculturalism and assimilation.
Such a party would be beneficial to both immigrants and Icelanders. For immigrants, the party would emphasise the issues concerning them, and would give them a direct voice in city affairs. For Icelanders, the Immigrant Party would help combat ignorance on both sides of the equation, promote greater cooperation and help newcomers to Iceland to assimilate into Icelandic society faster.
I believe that such a party can and will succeed. The previously mentioned 5,424 Reykjavík immigrants are more than enough to get us one seat on city council (the Progressives got theirs with barely more than 4,000 votes). But also, I believe that Icelanders want the nation’s newest residents to be better assimilated into society, and that they want their foreign-born neighbours to have the same rights and opportunities that they enjoy.
In some democracies, you choose the lesser of a number of evils. It shouldn’t have to be that way. It is my hope and my intention that the Immigrant’s Party will give a voice to those who, until now, haven’t had much of one.
Of course, this movement is just getting started. We need people who are concerned about these issues, Icelanders and immigrants alike, who are willing to help finalise a platform, organise a campaign, and naturally, to run for office. We will meet regularly, and put this party into action. All those interested can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.