Iceland goes to the polls on Saturday, October 29, six months earlier than normally envisaged. The right-wing Independence Party and The Pirates protest movement are fighting neck-on-neck for the first place.
Disillusionment and protest
“The Pirates” lead the polls with small intervals since last April, when Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson of the Progressive Party was embroiled in the Panama Papers scandal; he has subsequently resigned following mass demonstrations.
That was not the first failure of the Icelandic political system. From the economic crisis of 2008 (Kreppa) to the failure of the left Social Democratic government in 2009 to meet “revolutionary” expectations, there is an increasing sense of political disillusionment. In 2013, a nationalist alliance came to power, which was in turn discredited by the Panama Papers scandal.
Pirates could still win
Two polls published last week – 21 October and 18 October – suggest that the ruling right-wing Progressive Party cannot hope for more than 9% of the vote, while its coalition Independence Party partner holds its ground with 21-23% of the vote.
The combined maximum of 33% is a far cry from the 51,1% they mastered in the 2013 general elections.
Polls suggest that Iceland’s Pirate Party is second in the polls with approximately 21-22,5% of the vote, a leap from 5% in 2013. Still, these are not the highest polling numbers The Pirates have seen. Between April and March, The Pirates were the party of choice for up to 40% of the electorate.
The emerging third force is the Left Green Party, led by former Minister of Education Katrín Jakobsdóttir. They are looking at approximately 19%.
The Social Democratic Alliance has seen its support tumble to 6,5%. And the pro-EU Bright Future party is also in the single digits with 6-to-7,4%.
The Pirates remain a protest movement, with a platform of social and economic libertarianism. But, they made strands since 2013, when they gained 5%.
They are running a crowdfunded campaign, have a direct democracy political platform, and make the usual pledges to water down copy-right rules, decriminalize drugs, turn the bitcoin into a legal tender, lower the voting age, and offer Snowden asylum. Their leader is Birgitta Jonsdottir, a teacher, a published poet, and former Wikileaks spokesperson.
They are not looking for the office of the Prime Minister and will not be seeking to transform the financial system. They want the Presidency of the Parliament and a constituent assembly to review Iceland’s Constitution.
Elections are taking place under the shadow of an expected standoff with vulture funds.
The government has suspended the service of €1,3bn in government bonds owned by Autonomy Capital, Eaton Vance, Loomis Sayles, and Discovery Capital Management.
Iceland did make an offer for a voluntary restructuring in June, but the vulture funds are holding out demanding more. Two of the funds are already taking their care to the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) in Brussels. The newly elected government will have to make a choice of whether to pay or not to pay.