Published June 12, 2014
Oh, you heard about it? It seems like a lot of people did not. Turnout was at an historic low for all municipal elections around Iceland, including Reykjavík. Since 2002, the population of the city proper has grown from 110,000 to 120,000. At the same time total votes cast have gone from 69,000 to 57,000. Nationwide only 66 percent of eligible voters cast their ballot, which is the lowest electoral participation in 60 years.
That doesn’t sound so bad, that’s almost as many as the votes cast
in the Eurovision Song Contest every year.
Reykjavík gave its douze points to the Social Democratic Alliance and its top dog, the genial, floppy-haired Dagur B. Eggertsson. For the first time, the Social Democrats got the most votes of any party in the city, with five out of fifteen members on the City Council. Three other parties who are, generally speaking, on the left, also received enough votes to get candidates on the council, Bright Future got two and the Left-Greens and the Pirate Party one each, and these parties will likely form the new majority coalition. All in all, it was a great day for the left.
If I know my left-wingers right they’ve found a turd lining on that happy cloud.
Yes, the 10 percent received by the Progressive Party. Traditionally they have been strongest in the countryside, and did not manage to get any candidates into Reykjavík’s city council last time around. So they went from having no members to having two.
Ah, so they ran a really good, professional election campaign?
Oh no, not at all. Their initial top candidate quit because it looked like the party would get barely any votes. Then they were going to draft in an old parliamentarian and minister whose post-political career was to be a spokesman for agricultural products and tell lewd jokes at business shindigs. He decided not to run the night before he was to be formally announced, leaving the party flapping in the wind like a Welcome Home Daddy balloon when daddy has decided he likes his other family in Selfoss better.
But then they found dynamic new leadership team who connected with the people of their city?
The person they found to lead their list, Sveinbjörg Birna Sveinbjörnsdóttir, did not actually live in Reykjavík. She lives in the bordering municipality of Kópavogur. At first she seemed like nothing so much as another milestone in the most hapless run for office that Iceland had ever witnessed. No one really paid attention to her until she started to talk about how Muslims should not get to build a mosque in Reykjavík. She proposed that a citywide referendum would be held to decide if a local Muslim congregation should be allowed to build their mosque. Freedom of religion does not mean much if the majority can decide who is allowed to demonstrate their faith.
Some people desire power more than they want to love their neighbour.
Some members of her party criticised her. Hreiðar Eiríksson, the person in fifth place on the party list, withdrew his support. The chairwoman of the Progressive Party’s parliamentary caucus, Sigrún Magnúsdóttir, said that the opinions of Sveinbjörg Birna did not reflect the views of the party and went against its tenets. Progressive Party MP and Minister of Foreign Affairs Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson reposted Sigrún Magnúsdóttir’s words on his Facebook page. While these people were a credit to their party, the Prime Minister and party leader Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson declined to comment until after the election, when, to be fair, he did say that he thought that Muslims should be allowed to build a house of worship in Reykjavík.
Good thing he waited until after the election or else racists might have been discouraged by his words to go vote for his party.
The devil, as they say, is in the details. The Prime Minister specified that the mosque would need to fit in with its surroundings, which is not the full-throated support for freedom of religion that is ideal to hear from the head of government. This is even more worrisome in light of an article written by Guðrún Bryndís Karlsdóttir, a candidate who lost her seat on the Progressive Party list in a reshuffle. According to her one of the main things discussed during the run-up to the election was how she felt about Muslims. One of the ways her opinion was tested was how she reacted when one party official made a dick joke about Muslims. Apparently it was a disappointment when she did not laugh. Which reminds me of an old joke. What do you call a racist Icelandic politician? A dick.