Published June 21, 2010
The municipal elections throughout Iceland had a strong “throw out the rascals” feel to them.
And it felt good.
Independence Party chair Bjarni Benediktsson, clueless as ever, expressed satisfaction with his party’s performance, as if this were some sort of horse race, but Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir hit the nail on the head when she told us that the elections were an indictment against the four big parties, and represented a new political age for us.
It’s about time. Public opinion polls indicate that we trust our politicians about as much as we trust organised crime bosses, possibly because it has become difficult to distinguish between the two. Whatever the motives may have been for forming the parties decades ago, they have been replaced by their members’ self-aggrandisement, self-perpetuation, and self-enrichment.
The Left-Green Party appears to still want a clean environment (though its approval of renewed whaling permits leaves one wondering), but, beyond that, what do any of them stand for? Our so-called leaders approved the legislation that gave the country’s fishing rights to a few select individuals. They approved the legislation that gave the nation’s banks to a few select individuals. They approved legislation that has allowed the proliferation of limited liability entities behind which the scoundrels are now hiding.
What they haven’t done speaks just as loudly. Why has there been so little relief for low-income wage earners? Why has there been no residential housing relief? Why have they permitted HS Orka to be sold to the highest bidder? Why have the individuals who led us over the cliff been allowed to remain at the top of their parties’ lists?
There has been talk of a constitutional convention this fall. While it is undoubtedly true that we need to revisit the underpinnings of our system of government, there is an even more urgent need to revisit the underpinnings of the political parties that make up that government. The individuals who have thrived and advanced within the parties do not appear to be the type of individuals to whom one would entrust a nation’s future. They seem to view the parties as employment agencies for themselves and their friends and families, rather than as organisations created to advance the well-being of our people as a whole.
We are presented with generic mission statements and bland party platforms drafted to please the greatest number of voters while offending the fewest, and then base our decisions on inertia, physical attractiveness, and personal charisma.
I hope Jóhanna was right, and that serious rethinking of the goals of our society and the means of reaching those goals is forthcoming. Jón Gnarr may simply be a comedian who’s suddenly found himself in an awkward situation, but I believe that the discontent with the established parties that he embodies can lead to a more open and honest government, a truly new beginning.
Which—God knows—we could sure use.