By Nicholas Pratley
This is not the article I wanted to write. I wanted to write about how after ousting their government, Iceland went to the ballot box and voted for change. I wanted to write how, fed up with tax avoidance and the instigators of the financial crash, action was taken. Perhaps that is a story to come another day. For now the anger has once again simmered, and Iceland’s elections are being read as a win for the establishment.
Iceland’s election was on the 29th of October. Like many other news stories, it was overlooked in favour of the Trump vs. Clinton spectacle. Despite this, its initiation was a victory of some significance. A ruling coalition of the Independence Party and Progressive Party was rocked by information revealed in the Panama papers. The prime-minister, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, had offshore investments worth millions. Most controversially, these included multi-million pound claims on Iceland’s embattled banks. This provoked enough anger to bring many out onto the streets, demanding the withdrawal of government. After all, why trust a government to defend Iceland’s banks, when those within it would benefit personally from the banks’ demise?
Enough people came out, the government fell, and eyes were turned once again to the polls. To pundits and pollsters it seemed to be an obvious prediction. Founded on the principles of direct democracy, freedom of information, and anti-corruption, the Pirate Party looked set to gain the stage. This was demonstrated by polls, showing that as many as 35%-42% of the population supported them. This however did not materialise. The inflation of these figures in themselves has done the party no favours. Having won 5% at the 2013 election, internal forecasts put them at winning 12-15% of the vote. By this comparison the 14.5% looks less like a failure, and more like progress.
“Founded on the principles of direct democracy, freedom of information, and anti-corruption, the Pirate Party looked set to gain the stage.”
With the Independence Party winning 21 seats, and the Left-Green Party and Pirate Party both winning 10 seats, it is unsure who will make up the coalition. It is clear the Independence Party will have trouble with many of its potential partners. Many were elected with a desire to reform. What role the Pirate Party has to play here is still to be seen. It does however seem unlikely that we will see decriminalisation of drugs, raised taxes on the rich, and pursued internet freedoms. With a population of only 323,000, still unrecovered the financial crash in 2008, it has seemed likely that the Icelandic people will desire and achieve change. Compared to its previous banking system, this change would have to be radical.
This leaves the question: why haven’t people voted for it? The halving of the krona. The debt of 10 times the country’s GDP, accumulated by three banks. The tax-avoidance of the politicians who were meant to be reforming the system. Despite the anger apparent in the street, when it came to the polls there was no agreement on how to direct this. The dust has still not settled, so it would be foolish to predict the makeup of the next coalition. With 10 out of the 32 required seats, it does not seem likely that the Pirate Party will be able to hugely impact national policy. For now I will sit back and dream of a future where the seas of international-finance are dominated by pirates.