/// There does not seem to be much difference between the political platforms of the parties running in Reykjavík in the upcoming elections.
– I agree. There is not a huge division between the parties. There are no clear-cut lines between the parties like there is on the national stage. This is probably because the parties are focusing more on directly servicing the citizens, and the campaign has been evolved around who is willing to make the biggest promises. The difference between the parties is mostly relating to how they want to execute the policies.
It is interesting to see that the Independence Party [a right-wing party] has not spoken much about lowering taxes and reducing the budget, but rather seem to focus on welfare issues and development of the city.
/// What do you see as the main issue that voters in Reykjavík need to consider in the upcoming elections?
– Well, there are the issues that have been in the media limelight lately, such as the topic relating to the elderly, the day-care issue, the airport and the city planning.
The Independence Party has placed their emphasis on the need to make a change, and that the parties from the coalition have grown weary of being in power. But it is interesting to see that the Social Democrats have built their platform on the basis of their work in the current Reykjavík coalition and emphasised things that have been successful in the coalition.
The Leftist Greens and The Progressive Party have tried to distance themselves more from the legacy of the coalition and have instead tried to make an impression as unique selections. This is likely because they have brought in new people as candidates they have not hesitated in criticising the work of the coalition.
It is interesting to see how the smaller parties have tried to build their campaigns around specific issues. It is also interesting to see that in doing so they have managed to somewhat dictate the discourse leading up to the election. The Leftist-Greens recently began talking about the need to re-examine the location of the University hospital, and now all the parties have had to respond to that issue. The bigger parties have had to chase the smaller parties in this regard.
The emphasis on the specific issues is likely due to the parties trying to gather popular vote by focusing on topics that they believe will be popular. But they have managed to stake a claim as unique and individual campaigns.
Considering previous elections, we have not seen as much discussion about the mayoral candidates as we often have. We have not witnessed the same cockfight as usual. I would have expected that the discussion would be more focused on the leaders of the bigger parties and which one of them is more capable of running the city. The fight is much cleaner than it has been in the last two previous elections, and this is somewhat a surprise. This has been kind of a boring campaign. We the political enthusiasts want a little more action.
/// You mentioned that the Social Democrats have been running their campaign in part on the legacy of the Reykjavík coalition. Do you consider the Social Democrats to have in some way tried to claim the Reykjavík coalition as their own?
– No, I don’t think that is the case. The top four candidates for the Social Democrats are all current members of the city council on behalf of the coalition. I think they are concerned with parading the issues that they have been working on and they consider to be successful. Meanwhile, the other two parties from the coalition, The Progressives and The Leftist-Greens, have new candidates who are not members of the coalition. I think the new people are more likely trying to assert their uniqueness. I also think that in some regards, both the Independence Party and the Social Democrats are trying to tread lightly, they are being cautious and trying not to chase off any of the following they currently have.
/// There has been some discussion on how the campaigns are run, and that some of the parties are running very expensive campaigns. What is your feeling on this matter?
– Well, I understand that people want to get their opinion across. That is only natural, whichever medium they choose to do this in. The key issue, however, is how is this financed. We need to know who is financing these campaigns. Who is lending them money? Who is donating money? Where does the capital come from? The voters should have access to this information, and they should have it during the campaign period, not after the elections. There is a dire need for laws on the political parties’ finances. Political parties should never be secretive when it comes to money. This will only lead to gossip and rumours, and make people suspicious. This is not good for the parties and it is certainly not good for democracy.
/// What has most interested you as a political scientist in the current campaign for the upcoming elections?
– It has been really interesting to see how the parties in majority in the parliament have been doing in the polls. The Independence Party has been strengthening its position, while the Progressives have been loosing. In actuality, the Progressive Party usually does better in elections than they do in polls, while the Independence Party usually does worse in elections then they do in the polls. It will be interesting to see how this turns out on Election Day.
It will also be really interesting to see how the Leftist Greens will do in these elections. They did not do too good in the last local elections. If they do well this time it would be huge boost to them and support their grassroots organization. It will also be very interesting to see how The Social Democrats will do. After being the main party in the government opposition, it would be a big disappointment for them if they do not manage to hold on to at least 30% following nationwide, which is what they had in the last election. They should have at least the same, if not more. Everything else would be considered a failure.
/// How about the Progressive Party? They are not doing well in the polls, and it looks like they will not get a representative on city council. What would that mean for the Progressive Party nationwide?
– If The Progressive Party does not get a member on the city council, that would be a huge blow for them. It would be really bad for the party’s infrastructure and their operation in Reykjavík. It would be a blow for [Prime Minister] Halldór Ásgrímsson, because of the relation between Ásgrímsson and Hrafnsson, [the Progressive Party’s primary candidate who is currently Ásgrímsson’s assistant]. I think it is safe to say that it would be very damaging to the party’s moral, which was really not that good to begin with.