Published May 6, 2005
Lately the Progressive Party has been reminding me of one of my ex-girlfriends: attractive, sometimes charming and often imaginative, but prone to sending mixed messages and unclear signals. And like that ex-girlfriend, the Progressives end up making me feeling confused: I want to like them, I really do, but I just don’t know where they really stand.
The Progressives have demonstrated that they can oppose the status quo at times: they were the only party to express any doubts about giving Bobby Fischer citizenship (the only two abstentions in parliament over the Fischer citizenship vote came from Progressive MPs Dagný Jónsdóttir and Birkir Jónsson); they were the first to question whether supporting the war in Iraq was ever discussed, and they were also the first to suggest the woefully corrupt pension system for MPs and ministers be reviewed. The Progressives have also introduced some of the most forward-thinking and creative legislation in recent days. They were the ones who introduced the smoking ban, the proposal to get more women involved in politics, and make playschool free of charge. It was Minister of Social Affairs Árni Magnússon, a Progressive, who put together the “immigrant’s council,” which is supposed to combat prejudice against foreigners. Perhaps the most significant move the Progressives ever made, though, was to be the first to make the financial records of every party member easily available to the public (on their website no less), and made a formal request in parliament that all MPs and ministers be required to do the same.
The significance of this last move cannot be overstated. Politicians very seldom, if ever, actually propose this degree of financial transparency. That an entire party would volunteer to make their financial records open to anyone with internet access and propose that all parties must do the same is unprecedented.
It’s almost enough to make me fall in love. Almost, if it weren’t for those aforementioned mixed messages.
The Progressive party has an atrocious environmental record. Kárahnjúkar? That was them. Surveying people in the north of Iceland to see where they can build another aluminium smelter? Them, too. Applauding Minister of Industry (and Progressive) Valgerður Sverrisdóttir’s decision to let foreign oil companies drill in Icelandic waters, which could start as early as 2009? You get the picture. Yet the same Minister of Industry who seems determined to create a natural disaster in Iceland within our lifetime says that the country should move away from aluminium smelters. And while Minister Magnússon did create the immigrant’s council, he’s also been a vocal supporter of one of the most xenophobic social measures Iceland has taken in the past twenty years: the crackdown on “illegal” immigrants (see “Crying Wolf”). And just like seeing some hot girl hanging on the arm of some ape of a boyfriend, the Progressive’s relationship with the Independence Party makes me wonder about their taste in partners. But then people like Progressive MP Kristinn H. Gunnarsson will appear on television making claims that young Progressives are unsatisfied with the Independence Party. It’s like having that same hot girl tell you, “Oh, I don’t really know what I see in him. But you, I feel like I can be myself around you,” and smile sweetly.
Why must they tease me so, cruel vixens of parliament?
I guess I shouldn’t make the same mistake with the Progressives that I made with the ex-girlfriend I mentioned before. I want to get to know them better before I get too involved, take it slow, see what happens. Maybe we’re better off just being friends.