From Iceland — Reykjavík Grapevine 2013 Election Liveblog

Reykjavík Grapevine 2013 Election Liveblog

Published April 27, 2013

The final numbers are in:
Social Democrats: 9 MPs
Leftist-Greens: 7 MPs
Independence Party: 19 MPs
Progressives: 19 MPs
Bright Future: 6 MPs
Pirates: 3 MPs

Well, the way it looks now, the Pirates are likely out of the race. Otherwise, the numbers haven’t changed. Iceland’s next ruling coalition will probably be an Independence Party-Progressive deal. So, a return to the coalition that run the country during the bubble, pushed for corporatising while turning a blind eye to the dangerous behavior of the banks, and subsequently ruined the economy are, four years after being jeered out of parliament, back in power. It seems incredible, but such is the nature of binary politics. If there’s a glimmer of hope to be had here, it’s that these results might give Icelanders a reason to consider whether there might be a way towards a new society outside of party politics. After all, you don’t get the government you deserve – you get the government you can imagine. For now, I’m going to console myself with the knowledge that tomorrow’s another day, and in this country’s politics, anything can happen.
As further numbers begin to trickle in, it seems fairly clear at this point that the only real matter of doubt remains regarding whether or not the Pirates will have a place in parliament. Across the board the rest of the way, it seems as though the Independence Party and the Progressives will be the two strongest parties, with the current ruling coalition of the Social Democrats and the Leftist-Greens having about half that support, and Bright Future sopping up the remaining handful of seats.
British Labour MP Barry Sheerman expressed the general bafflement of those watching from the outside in a tweet that puts it pretty concisely: “The old gang of elite families back in charge in Iceland what a shameful outcome how stupid can even Icelanders be?” Wish we could tell you, Barry.
33% of the votes counted, and here’s what we got:
Social Democrats: 9 MPs
Leftist-Greens: 9 MPs
Independence Party: 20 MPs
Progressives: 19 MPs
Bright Future: 6
Notice something different? No Pirates. Right now, they’re straddling the fabled 5% Mark – the line between a place in parliament or not. We’ll see how that unfolds.
The newest numbers are in, and they show the following results:
Social Democrats: 10 MPs.
Leftist-Greens: 9 MPs
Independence Party: 19 MPs
Progressives: 17 MPs
Bright Future: 5 MPs
Pirates: 4 MPs
As you can see, not much of a change from the previous numbers. Both parties of the ruling coalition have taken a hit, especially the Social Democrats, while the right wing has received an almost doubling of their support only four years previous. At the same time, two new parties are on their way in, while it was considered a novelty that one new party had made its way in four years ago. And both of these parties, incidentally, lean distinctly to the left.
Bear in mind that smaller parties in Iceland tend to be pretty volatile in terms of levels of support. The Liberal Party (Frjálslyndir) were once up to 10% in 2006, only to be completely wiped out by 2009. The Civic Movement (Borgararhreyfingin) had four seats in 2009, only to be off the map today. Even with a multipartisan system, it seems as though voters tend to hew towards the largest herds, and this year is no exception.
Lest I seem entirely too cynical, I do have to say that on the positive side of things, there’s a lot that could be said about how the new government will run. The possible conservative opposition will have to face a motivated opposition across the leftist spectrum. This will be an opposition that will devote a lot of time to shining a light on every legislative measure that the new coalition will try to pass, especially with regards to the issues that matter most to Icelandic voters – reducing household debt and re-charging the economy. Furthermore, there is some ideological overlap between the Progressives and the Social Democrats, so it’s likely that we won’t be seeing a very right wing government. Rather, this government will likely move towards issues such as privatization and liberalization of the economy more carefully than what might be imagined from the heydays of the early millennium. Cold comfort for the anti-capitalists of this country who want real and actual change, but on the bright side, they will have more of a voice now than they did before.
The various and sundry party leaders (or party spokespeople, in the case of the Pirates) has them all basically expressing the same message of gratitude for the support they’ve received. Both the Independence Party and Progressive chairmen are trying to pretend to hold their cards close to their chest in refusing to acknowledge that they’ll form a ruling coalition with each other, but come on. Who are they fooling? This is the Independence Party’s chance to get back into power, and the Progressives’ chance to possibly lead. It’s going to be those two.
For some reason I’m reminded of that old saying about democracy ensuring that people get the government they deserve.
The mood across Icelandic social media is one of general disappointment. Well, that’s how it goes. The foreign media might be scratching their heads wondering why Iceland might have voted back into power the very same parties who ruined us, it’s important to have in mind that there are a lot of factors at play. For example, the European Union. Most Icelanders are against joining, and that’s something the Leftist-Greens have in common with the conservative parties, which explains how the Leftist-Greens have been able to hang on reasonably well. At the same time, the pro-EU Social Democrats have taken a huge hit, and stand to lose over half their MPs. Icelanders are not single-issue voters, and there’s a lot of factors in play here. Just so we avoid oversimplifying things here.
Looking at the individual districts, there seems to be a common theme of Social Dems and Leftist-Green losing votes while the Independence Party and Progressives gain, at a margin of about 2 to 1. Interestingly, it seems the extra steam the Leftist-Greens have put into their campaign in the last two weeks has paid off enough to see them being able to hang onto their seats in the Reykjavík South voting district. Support from Bright Future and the Pirates is pretty much falling in line with what has been expected.
In other words, Team Nostalgia looks like they’re about to take the reins. Forgive us, rest of the world, for ruining the dream.
OK, first numbers are coming in. As it stands now, the results look as follows:
Social Democrats: 10 MPs
Leftist-Greens: 9 MPs
Independence Party: 19 MPs
Progressives: 16 MPs
Pirates: 4 MPs
Bright Future: 5 MPs
This is more or less in keeping with the aggregate projections made from various polls, although the Independence Party and the Progressives have been neck-in-neck up until this point. It looks like Team Nostalgia is off to a great start, but stay tuned! Anything could happen.
RÚV is doing a round-up of New Years Eve sketch comedy routines from the previous election term, and Stöð 2 is having a kind of wacky, zany running commentary about the different parties and politicians running. Should give you some idea of the general attitude this election season. Depending on who you talk to, the sheer number of parties running this year is either a sign of increasing democracy, or a sign of insufferable egoism. Either way, first numbers should be coming in shortly.
Vísir is kind enough to remind the general public that posting photos of your ballots on Facebook is illegal. The general mood on Icelandic social media is great surprise for the low turn-out, with people continuing to encourage each other to vote.
For those trying to understand why Iceland would show such strong support for the two parties who put Iceland in the economic mess it is currently only now recovering from, bear in mind that the matter isn’t as simple as change not happening fast enough. A recent poll done for Morgunblaðið showed that of those intending to vote for the Progressives this year, about 20% voted for the Leftist-Greens and 23% voted for the Social Democrats in 2009. The changes of government made four years ago were, to a significant degree, less about policy and more about returning to the economic status quo. As the “other guys” weren’t able to deliver this, a large bloc of voters are hoping the previous guys can bring back the good ol’ days. As things unfold, we’ll see how significant that block is.
RÚV is getting hit so hard right now their website is having trouble loading, but Vísir is reporting a turnout lower than the one in 2009. That’s a surprise on one level, in that there are a number of new parties participating. However, keep in mind that different age groups and people living in different areas of the country turn out in wildly different numbers. The inevitability of a conservative government might mean fewer supporters of the Independence Party and the Progressives turning out, but that remains to be seen.
Decision 2013: Iceland!
Hello everyone, and welcome to the Reykjavík Grapevine Election Liveblog!
Tonight, the country decides if they’re going to a) keep the government they have, b) put a whole new government in place, or c) vote right back into power the same two parties that bankrupted us in the first place. At the time of this writing, option C looks likely, but it’s still anyone’s game. Media outlets from around the world are watching to see which way Iceland will go. So in the spirit of any overhyped sports event, let’s meet the players who, according to the latest polls, all stand a chance of getting seats in parliament:
Samfylkingin (The Social Democratic Alliance) – centre-left party that currently heads the ruling coalition. Their main selling points are increasing socio-economic egalitarianism and joining the EU. [SocDem] Vinstri-græn (The Leftist-Greens) – leftist party in the ruling coalition. Their emphasis is much like Samfylkingin, only a bit farther to the left. [LeftG] TEAM NOSTALGIA:
Sjálfsstæðisflokkurinn (The Independence Party) – conservative party promising to lower taxes in order to re-charge the economy, they swear the economic crash had nothing to do with their hands-off approach to letting banks do as they please without question. [Indp] Framsókn (Progressive Party) – ironically-named centre-right party promising … pretty much everything but balloons and ice cream for all. But mostly to pay off a huge chunk of household debt by getting the money from somewhere. [Prog] TEAM UPSTART:
Píratapartýið (The Pirate Party) – Like their contemporaries in other European countries, their emphasis is on internet law, social liberty, and direct democracy. [Pirate] Björt Framtíð (Bright Future) – Sister party of Jón Gnarr’s Best Party, they want to change the argumentative and obstructionist nature of politics, and also join the EU. [BrFut] As of now, the latest polls show Team Nostalgia with enough support for a parliamentary majority, Team Government having about half that level of support, and Team Upstart are projected to win about nine or ten seats in parliament.
But! The night is young, and you could cut the tension and anticipation with a knife. A big, sharp, serrated knife that would take like, five people to hold. But polls are only projections, and election results here in Iceland have surprised expectations before. How will it all unfold? STAY TUNED!

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