Police estimate that over 2,300 people have turned out to take part in a protest demonstration in front of Iceland’s parliament. The core of the issue centres around the government’s recent decision to end accession talks with the European Union. Whilst most Icelanders are still against joining the EU, the vast majority – from every political party – want a public referendum on whether or not to continue talks, which were put on hold last April.
“The government has made a promise that we would have an [accession] election about the EU and I want them to keep their promise,” author and journalist Guðmundur Andri Thorsson told the Grapevine.
As Guðmundur pointed out, both parties in the ruling coalition – the Progressives, who lead the government, and their partners in the Independence Party – promised a referendum.
On the Independence Party’s home page, their campaign platform can be found, which includes the statement, “The people will take the decision on accession talks with the EU in a public referendum within the election term.”
In fact, on the ruling coalition’s joint policy site, they state again, “Accession talks with the European Union will not be continued unless following a public referendum.”
At the time of this reporting over 51,000 Icelanders have signed a petitioncalling for the government to stand by its promise.
When asked how long he believed the government could ignore the trend, Guðmundur said, “They can’t, and they are not ignoring, they are reacting now on this, they are backing. They are afraid and they are backing.”
Indeed, the government has been showing some backpedaling on the matter. Independence Party chairperson Bjarni Benediktsson, who only days previous called a referendum “unrealistic”, told parliament last Friday that a public referendum was “still being considered”.
How the government will ultimately respond to these demonstrations, and the growing number of signatures on the petition, remains to be seen.
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