Musings, politics and environmental issues

Posts tagged ‘Bright Future’

Icelandic politics: unbelievable but (maybe) true

One more election over, and one more to come in the near future if the formal talks now starting result in a government spanning right, left and centre. The promising start between four left-to-centre parties fizzled out when the centre party, the Progressive Party (PP), decided that a majority of one was not enough. Informal talks between the Left-Greens (LG), Independent Party (IP) and PP have now resulted in formal talks.

Left-Green supporters are not pleased, and there is also antipathy and outright opposition within elected LG party members towards working with Bjarni Ben’s IP party. His party got 16 seats as distinct from 11 for the LGs and 8 for the PP. Usually, the IP would get the right to form a government but in this case it was Katrin Jakobsdottir from the LGs who got it originally, and returned it when the first talks came to nothing.

Nevertheless, she is still playing a major role. She turned to BB and started informal discussions with him and the PP, which were accepted by her fellow MPs on the basis that she would become Prime Minister rather than BB – this still seems likely to be the case. It was reported that the LGs didn’t want BB anywhere near a Cabinet position, and even that ministerial positions should be filled by people outside of elected representatives, but these demands now seem to have got lost. BB is supposed to become the Finance Minister (hello Tortola).

As predicted beforehand, some people have already resigned from the Left-Greens because of the projected alliance with arch-enemies IP. A year ago, only 25% of Bright Future supporters wanted to enter into a coalition with the IP and its splinter party Vidreisn, and support for BF dropped from 7.2% in the 2016 elections to 1.2% now. Disgruntled voters saw that they wouldn’t have a voice under BB and voted accordingly this year. The same will happen with LG supporters, who did not vote for the party on the basis that they would end up with their arch-enemies as bedfellows.

Two of the elected LG members (11 in all) voted against forming an alliance with BB and it’s still possible that the party as a whole will reject the current talks. Katrin has promised “a different way of working” but voters have heard that before, and with the IP around it doesn’t happen. Stay tuned – next update is likely to be at the end of the week.

Iceland elects corrupt politicians yet again

Eight parties won seats in the Icelandic parliamentary elections on Saturday, held 364 days after the previous elections. The run-up was short and there was little discussion of issues – I think that many politicians thought that general public would remember their last promises – and the campaign revolved more around personalities. 63 seats were contested.

Despite the Left-Greens having a marginal lead early on, Bjarni Ben used his 4th life (like cats, I’m convinced he has nine lives and unfortunately hasn’t used them all up yet) to bring his party to 25.25% share of the vote and 16 elected candidates, whereas the Left-Greens got 11 people in and 16.89% of the vote.

Three weeks before the election, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson of Wintris fame, who was booted out of his Prime Minister role after the Panama papers interview and who had done virtually zilch after he lost his position as leader of the Progressive Party, formed his own party, the Middle Party, and got 7 people in, some of whom had been representing his old party. He will, I suspected, remain alienated from other political parties with the exception of Bjarni Ben’s crowd, who have no scruples. But now it appears he is in league with a new “populist” party, the People’s Party, that got in with 4 candidates on the basis of working on behalf of the elderly and disabled. Some of their policies had been somewhat spurious but I suspect that at least some of the people who voted for them did so on the basis that they were not SDG or BB.

The party that walked out of the last coalition government, Bright Future, paid for their allegiance to BB with a disastrous election result of 1.22%, and at the time the last coalition was formed only 25% of BF voters were happy with the idea. Those people switched their allegiance to other parties this time round – and the same thing will happen to Inga Saeland and her People’s Party.

The other coalition party with BB, Vidreisn/Reform, also lost seats in this election. On the other hand, the Social Democrats (who had also had a bad experience of working with BB’s party prior to the bank crash) rose up from the ashes to get 12.05% of the vote and 7 seats this time instead of scraping in with 3 like last time.

The Pirates lost 4 seats and now have 6 – they admit that they probably forgot to talk about issues. Their main issue was the need for a new constitution, which is important but obviously not enough to win supporters. SDG’s old party, the Progressive Party, got 8 seats and 10.71% of the vote. As part of the opposition over the last year, they had become (temporarily at least) left-wing.

Katrin Jakobsdottir from the Left-Greens wants to have a coalition government made up of the four parties who were in opposition last time around, i.e. Progressive Party, SDP, Pirates and Left-Greens, and will have a one-seat majority. BB of course wants to form a government and so does SDG, but both parties will have difficulty finding enough parties willing to work with them due to the corruption scandals of their leaders. (Interestingly, the investigative paper Stundin had done an article on how parties would handle corruption and two of the three parties which didn’t reply were those of BB and SDG – which are precisely the parties that need to address the issue the most.)

Although Iceland has proportional representation, its voting system is somewhat complicated so that the PP got more seats than the SDP despite having a smaller proportion of voters electing it. This is something that a new constitution should address.




Icelandic government on brink of taking power but could face vote of no confidence

Iceland is on the brink of getting a new ruling coalition – the Independent Party, Vidreisn (= Reform) and Bright Future. They have actually tried before to form a coalition, to no avail. But this time it’s worked. The final touches are being made today, including who the Ministers will be, but it’s clear that Bjarni Benediktsson from the Independent Party will be Prime Minister.

But there are already problems. Bjarni Ben (BB) was associated with the Panama Papers scandal, and at a meeting in Reykjavik before the elections French MEP Eva Joly said she was surprised that he and the others named at the time, Olof Nordahl and Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, would even dream of standing again. But yes, they all got back in.

Last summer, BB set up a committee to look into how much money Iceland has lost from companies and individuals with assets in offshore islands such as Panama and Tortola. The committee actually reported back on September 13 but BB said that the Finance Ministry, which he headed, had actually received the report on October 13, after the Althingi had dissolved.

The report wasn’t published on the Ministry’s website until last week, though. Over the weekend BB backed down and said he’d been given a presentation of the findings in the report on October 5. He gave some feeble excuse about not remembering the exact date as he was campaigning for election at the time, but basically he lied. And people are angry.

The Pirate Party are considering calling for a vote of no confidence in the not-yet-formed government coalition because of this. Smari McCarthy, one of the Pirate MPs, said that there was very little difference in the behaviour of Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, who was forced to resign after the Wintris scandal, and BB. Svandis Svavarsdottir from the Left-Greens has put in a written request to the Parliamentary Ombudsman about whether delaying publication of the report until after the election can be considered a breach. The Reform Party are taking the matter seriously and I can’t imagine that Bright Future are pleased either. Indeed, in a vote to agree cooperation with Reform and IP, over 25% of those voting opposed the collaboration and policy statement.

Meanwhile, sorting out who will be Ministers is posing a problem. Bright Future are supposed to get two Ministerial positions, including the Environment Ministry, but there are only 4 MPs so they will be under a lot of pressure as they will also have to take part in government committees. And BB is in trouble because he can’t find enough women with experience for the 5 Ministers his party will get. The Reform Party lacks experience too – they will get two Ministers – apart from Thorgerdur Katrin Gunnarsdottir, who split from the Independent Party but was Education Minister at one time for that party. There is animosity towards her from some members of BB’s party because of her defection.

This government is headed for difficulties. It only has a one-seat majority, so it won’t take much to unseat it. We’ll see.

Update: It turns out that the IP have 6 Ministers, Reform has 3 and Bright Future 2 (including the environment ministry). Of them, only 4 have held a ministerial position previously and 3 are new to the Althingi. Thorgerdur Katrin Gunnarsdottir is Minister for Fisheries and Agriculture.

Update: The government has fallen, after sitting for 247 days instead of 4 years.



Political situation in Iceland complex

In the recent parliamentary election in Iceland, the Independent Party gained 21 out of 63 seats and its leader, Bjarni Benediktsson, was given the mandate to form a government. But it turns out not to be a simple job. The fact that some parties said prior to the election that they wouldn’t work with certain other parties isn’t making life easy for him, as the next largest parties, the Left-Greens and the Pirates – which both gained 10 seats – refuse to work with the Independent Party because of its Panama connections. Bjarni Ben is making moves with Vidreisn and Bright Future, which will give them a one-person majority, but some members of the IP are more interested in working with the Left-Greens as well as with the Progressive Party (PP), whose ex-leader Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson was exposed in the Panama Papers. Not surprisingly, the Left-Greens don’t want to work with the PP either. Oh, and the PP is split because most of the PP politicians don’t want to work with SDG.

Vidreisn is essentially a splinter party from the IP but is pro-EU (the IP is anti-EU). Some members of the IP view Vidreisn with animosity because of the splinter. Bright Future is centre in terms of politics, and have said that they’re not particularly keen on the idea of working the the IP.

Bjarni Ben said yesterday that if he feels he’s not getting anywhere (and he’s not), he’ll relinquish his mandate of forming a government, which means it will probably then go to Katrin Jacobsdottir from the Left-Greens, who wants to form a government with all parties except the IP and PP. It might well be that the Left-Greens will form a ruling coalition with Vidreisn and BF, with the Pirates and the now-miniscule Social Democrats on the sidelines, ready to support the coalition if need be. The Pirates are happy to relinquish ministerial positions, and the Social Democrats – who had said they were happy to form a Left-Centre alliance prior to the election – performed so badly that they have said they don’t want to be part of the ruling coalition.

It’s problematic also because Iceland has always had a two-party ruling coalition, but with 7 parties in the parliament the numbers don’t work this time and it has to be three.

I predict that the next Prime Minister will be Katrin Jakobsdottir. And the world will take notice.

UPDATE: It’s now over a month since the elections and talks have happened twice, first between the Independent Party, Vidreisn and Bright Future and then between the LG, Pirates, BF, Vidreisn and Social Democrats. But both sets of talks petered out. Vidreisn and Bright Future appear to have become inseparable. After having given the mandate to form a government to first Bjarni Ben and then to Katrin Jakobsdottir, he decided on Friday to let the parties sort it out themselves for the time being. Stay tuned.