A law firm, a former MP, and a proposed power plant are enmeshed against an attempt being made by environmental activists to possibly sway upcoming elections in Árneshreppur in north Iceland. The issue actually goes back about ten years, but things have finally come to a head this month.
As reported, according to data from the National Registry, the population of Árneshreppur increased by 40% between April 24 and May 4. Before this period, there were 44 legally registered households in the region, but 18 individuals reportedly moved their legal residence to Árneshreppur during this 10-day period alone.
At stake in Árneshreppur in particular is the planned construction of a power plant on Hvalá river. Kristinn H. Gunnarsson, a former MP and a Westfjords native, published a list of names of these “new arrivals” on his blog, and today published an update on some of these people, identifying many of them as artists and environmental activists. However, some of these new arrivals actually do have connections to the area – Hrafn Jökulsson and Sif Konráðsdóttir, both of whom do have familial connections to the area, have moved their legal residence to the region, along with their respective children.
In addition, Vísir reported that where the other names on the list are concerned, the law offices of Sókn put together a memo stating that they believe there is an attempt at influencing the elections being made here.
For the sake of greater context, Kristinn and Sókn are not just concerned citizens hoping to preserve the integrity of democracy. They are both connected to the Hvalá power plant, and Kristinn was a staunch advocate for building the plant during his time in Parliament.
MBL reports that amongst Sókn’s clients is Vesturverk, an energy company in Ísafjörður that is doing the work of preparations for the Hvalá power plant. Amongst the work Sókn does for Vesturverk directly pertains to the power plant, e.g. with regards to planning.
Kristinn’s advocacy for the power plant is a matter of public record. In 2009, while serving as an MP, he directed a formal question to then Minister of Industry Össur Skarphéðinsson, amongst other things asking when the Minister intended to issue an exploration permit for the plant. In parliamentary discussions on this question, Össur said that he would not be issuing a permit because he did not consider it necessary. Kristinn was pleased, saying at the time, “I consider it cause for celebration that after the Ministry examined this case that there will be no further delays on research for the possible power plant at Hvalá.”
Police are currently questioning the people who newly changed their legal residence to Árneshreppur in order to assess the veracity of their claims. Time is of the essence, not only as municipal elections are coming up on May 26, but also because the list of registered voters must be established well before elections are held. Vísir reports that the National Registry is currently working on establishing this list as fast as possible.