From Iceland — What Are Reykvíkingar Voting For?

What Are Reykvíkingar Voting For?

Published May 4, 2018

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Adobe Stock

Apart from the parties already in City Council, numerous other parties have thrown their hats in the ring as well. This can be confusing for a lot of voters, especially as some of these campaigns appear to be jokes (e.g., The Men’s List is clearly a short-sighted response to their being a Women’s List). But the glue that binds them all together is the fact that these elections, as with many others, orbit around a few major issues.

These are just some of the largest issues Reykjavíkings will be basing their votes on this year:

1. Housing. There is likely no other issue that concerns those living in Reykjavík as much as housing. Whether we’re talking about the Airbnb Effect, the squeeze on rental properties, or the constant of race of supply to keep up with demand, there is probably no other issue pressing on the minds of the voters in Iceland’s capital. Solutions to this problem have ranged from drawing up plans to build new apartment blocks over the next few years to developing areas of Reykjavík that have traditionally been off-limits to development, to converting shipping containers into cheap homes for low-income earners. The only certain thing is that no solution to the housing problem will have any immediate effect.

2. The domestic airport. This issue is almost as old as the airport itself, and eats up a tremendous amount of time and energy despite there not likely being anything changing any time soon. For people in the countryside, keeping the domestic airport in the heart of Reykjavík means they get easy access to the city’s various goods and services; for people in Reykjavík, it’s a giant waste of real estate that could be used for building new housing, when the domestic airport could just as easily be practically anywhere else in the capital area. Parties that tend to pander to rural Icelanders—mostly on the right—tend to support keeping the airport where it is. On the left, though, it’s kind of a dead issue. It’s an issue so old, in fact, that Icelanders will joke “but where do they stand on the domestic airport” when a new party is introduced. We only included it here because it comes up so frequently.

3. A new hospital. Granted, this is more under the purview of the national government, but it’s still one that matters a great deal to Reykjavík voters. For them, it’s not just a question of where to put the hospital; it’s also about whether the resources shouldn’t first be going to renovate and staff up the current hospitals and health clinics we already have.

4. Wages. Getting a job working for the city doesn’t necessarily mean a comfortable salary. Numerous city services—especially caring for the elderly, disabled, and children—pay astonishingly low salaries. City workers do have a union, but negotiations have been slow going, and many of these workers are reaching the end of their rope. Any party hoping to make any headway with these workers is going to have to offer substantial increases.

5. Transportation. Arguably almost as important as housing to Reykjavík residents, everyone seems to have a different take on how to best manage city traffic. The left has been particularly fond of Borgarlínan, a mixed-used transportation system that effectively treats bus lines like a light rail system. The right, by contrast, genuinely believes there is a war against the private car owner, and so they see the solution to traffic congestion as being a matter of widening existing roads – a funny suggestion for a town where over 50% of the available land is already devoted to cars. And that’s without even touching the issue of when or whether to close Laugavegur to car traffic during the summer.

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