From Iceland — Our New Government: Uniting The Left?

Our New Government: Uniting The Left?

Published July 29, 2013

Our New Government: Uniting The Left?

At least our new government is wasting no time. You have to give them that. First, destroy public radio and television as independent media sources by making their heads politically appointed. Then, seriously consider arming the police with tasers, which would no doubt have given the ‘pots and pans revolution’ another name, had they been in use back in early 2009.
Now, you can get on with your real job, which is transferring public money to the wealthy few. One of the major achievements of the last government was to lessen income inequalities for the first time in living memory. Judging by their first actions, the new government is set to change this.
There are two reasons why this latest right-wing government is particularly dangerous. First, the Independence Party/Progressive Party coalition, Iceland’s “naturally governing parties” through the ages, had to spend four years in the wilderness in opposition (six for the latter). This seems unfair to those born to rule and has pissed them off royally. The last time the Independence Party was in power, they chose the Social-Democratic Alliance as coalition partners. That was supposed to present capitalism with a human face. This time, there is no such pretence.
Second, after being voted back into power less than five years after bankrupting the country, they really do feel like they have a mandate to do as they please. Any mistakes, after all, will soon be forgiven. The results are predictable. Decreased taxes on fisheries owners, the very wealthiest Icelanders. And how do we pay for this? By cutting dental care for children, to name but one example. Or not giving nurses the raise they had been promised, to name another. Or by privatising health care and cutting student loans. Nothing seems safe.
After all the conflict surrounding the last government, people seemed ready to slip into apathy under this one. This, however, has failed to happen. A new law intended to reduce fees on those who profit from harvesting the nation’s fish stock (which are in public ownership, but rented out) caused an uproar.
Roughly 35,000 people—over a tenth of the entire population—signed a petition to keep the old laws (and fees) in place. This, however, did not impress President Ólafur Ragnar. After having introduced the idea of petitions as a way to influence government by repeatedly refusing to sign the IceSave bill, he seems now to have sided firmly with the current government. Petitions seem to have been rendered meaningless. But can the genie be put back in the bottle?
It seems that the new government has already managed to do something that the former government couldn’t: they’ve galvanised the left. It would be very unwise for a President and a Prime Minister, both of whom were elected as a direct result of opposition to IceSave, to now refuse to listen to the people.
We know what happened last time a right-wing government refused to listen. It is unlikely that the next revolution will be as peaceful as the last. A well-armed police force will make sure of that.
Valur Gunnarsson is one of those guys that founded The Reykjavík Grapevine ten years ago. When he’s not sleeping, Valur likes to write novels and articles and opinion columns. He also sings a lot, and travels to his heart’s content.

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