FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Iceland’s Crippling Elections

by JOSE M. TIRADO

With 94.8% of the votes tallied, Icelanders last night handed the governing coalition of the Social Democrat Alliance and the Left-Green Movement a crippling defeat, turning over the reins of power right back to the same coalition which wrecked the economy 5 years ago: the Independence Party and the Progressive Party. 26.7% of the electorate backed the Independence Party and 24.4% voted for the Progressives, both center-right institutions, with deep interests in the banking sector, the “sea barons,“ and the agricultural companies. (The governing coalition together barely topped 20%: the Social Democrats received only 12.9%, the Left-Greens 10.9 %.)

Several smaller parties formed this election season, mainly on the populist-left side of the aisle (though a Right-Green Party received 1.7%) and they began gathering and splitting with predictable regularity. For example, Dögun or “Dawn” received 3.1% but lost members to “Democracy Watch” (2.5%), “The Household Party (3.0%), and the “Pirate Party” (5.1%) with the latter winning 3 seats, in the 63 seat unicameral legislature. Yet, though making up almost 20% of votes cast, the total of left/reformist groups will not be reflected in any significant parliamentary power.  This now leaves the center-rightists, who already control the economy, to water down the newly created people´s constitution as they have openly pledged, and to further enrich their own small band of ship owners, bankers, and crony capitalists.

So, how did this happen?

Well, in what might look to outsiders as a decisive rejection of left-of-center ideas, the election yesterday demonstrates that when the left moves right, it will lose. Initially chosen by a populist uprising to turn the country´s catastrophic economy back on the right track (the “Pots and Pans Revolution”), the Social Democrats and Left-Greens began with fairly widespread support to prosecute the elite banksters who´d turned Iceland into a casino of speculation and wild spending. After a fitful start, some indictments were served and some easing of the burdens on working families appeared on the horizon, though taxes were raised. But former foes of EU membership in the Left-Greens began to quizzically tout joining the union as a direction the country should seek. This was already a policy of the Social Democrats and thus questionably, while in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the reformist coalition was busy pursuing EU membership—a questionable solution never supported by most Icelanders anyway. In addition, they were seen as bailing out banks while promising to investigate and prosecute wrongdoers, dragging their feet on mortgage relief, and giving support to the same big, nature destroying aluminum smelting projects the Independence Party has always favored. Raising the already sensitized hackles of average Icelanders who only wanted some debt relief and jobs, the foundation for the coalition´s decline was set.

Gradually, as the new government adopted austerity measures typically recommended by the IMF, their popularity began to drop and a low-key wistfulness for the good old days began returning, with the public souring on the new government weekly.  “They (the reformist governing coalition of Social Democrats and Left-Greens) ‘saved’ the economy by giving more bailouts to the banks instead of helping the average family” said one friend, active in “Democracy Watch”.  “They spent too much time  stupidly considering the EU over directly challenging the existing power structures” he continued. So, as soon as they saw this opening (the independent spirit of Icelanders being pricked by fears of foreign domination) the Independence Party then capitalized on the situation with their erstwhile junior partners jostling for position to reverse the traditional coalition pairing if they won. The Progressives hammered the airwaves and newspapers with promises to erase household debt. The die was cast and Icelanders, being willing to throw the latest bums out, again, did so with a vengeance, picking the only other available group of bums to right the very same wrongs they were initially responsible for. “It´s just like a mafia” my friend added, bleary-eyed after a night of election watching with fellow travelers, “Nothing´s going to change, except that the new Constitution will die and more people will leave the country. We´ve lost doctors and other professionals to Norway and this will continue” he added.

When I mentioned that Iceland appeared more like a “crony democracy” to another friend, he responded, in clever English, “this is not crony democracy, it´s phony democracy”.

The Progressives do share at least some slightly center-left ideas with the Social Democrats but the fear now is that, having firmly promised to give relief to homeowners struggling under mountainous debt, they too are doomed to fail. And if so, this may bring about yet another political collapse, possibly even more crushing than the last. “We are a stupid people”, said a friend, “we want to believe the Progressive Party will lead the coalition and deliver on their promises, but no one wants to admit that the numbers don´t add up and that this too, is going to end badly. The whole system is fucked.”

Rev. JOSÉ M. TIRADO is a poet, priest and writer finishing a PhD in psychology while living in Iceland.

 

José M. Tirado is a Puertorican poet, Buddhist priest and political writer living in Hafnarfjorður, Iceland, known for its elves, “hidden people” and lava fields. His articles and poetry have been featured in CounterPunch, Cyrano´s Journal, The Galway Review, Dissident Voice, La Respuesta, Op-Ed News, among others. He can be reached at tirado.jm@gmail.com.    

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious madness in Ulster
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
January 19, 2017
Melvin Goodman
America’s Russian Problem
Dave Lindorff
Right a Terrible Wrong: Why Obama Should Reverse Himself and Pardon Leonard Peltier
Laura Carlsen
Bringing Mexico to Its Knees Will Not “Make America Great Again”
John W. Whitehead
Nothing is Real: When Reality TV Programming Masquerades as Politics
Yoav Litvin
Time to Diss Obey: the Failure of Identity Politics and Protest
Mike Whitney
The Trump Speech That No One Heard 
Conn Hallinan
Is Europe Heading for a “Lexit”?
Stephen Cooper
Truth or Twitter? Why Donald Trump Is No John Steinbeck
Binoy Kampmark
Scoundrels of Patriotism: The Freeing of Chelsea Manning
Ramzy Baroud
The Balancing Act is Over: What Elor Azaria Taught Us about Israel
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail