The Icelandic election now nears ever closer, and today we take a look at the party that broke the mould in 2009, the Social Democratic Alliance. This blog will look at how it became the largest party and formed a left-wing government in the midst of a financial crisis, and how they have plummeted in the polls.
In the run-up to elections in 1999, four left-wing parties in Iceland (the Social Democratic Party, People’s Alliance, Women’s List and National Awakening) formed a controversial alliance. With plans to adopt a similar platform to that of Blair’s New Labour, several members broke away to form a new party, the Left-Green Movement.
After a positive result in 1999 (with almost 27% of the vote and 17 seats), the four parties formally unified into one, becoming commonly known as ‘The Alliance’.
The following election in 2003 saw its peak support, achieving almost a third of all votes and winning 20 seats in the Althing. However, the party remained second only to the Independence Party.
In the run up to the 2009 election, a two-year-old green politics party ‘Icelandic Movement – Living Country’ joined the Alliance. However, with no seats in the Althing, its impact was limited.
In contrast, the impact of the financial crash was monumental to Iceland. With a loss of confidence in the ruling party in running the economy, the Alliance shot to first place, breaking the decades-long hold that Independence had over the role as the largest political party in Iceland.
The Alliance entered into a coalition with the Left-Green Movement, with Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir becoming Iceland’s first female Prime Minister and the world’s first openly gay head of government. Jóhanna’s government made significant steps for women’s rights, banning strip clubs (a first in a Western democracy) and even discussing proposals to ban online pornography (porn is already prohibited in Iceland as of 1940, but is not strictly enforced). The government also opened up accession talks with the European Union, with the aim of becoming a member, with Brussels suggesting Iceland could be ‘fast-tracked’ into the Union and even into the Eurozone, to protect it from much of the financial damage caused by the crash.
The government also opened up accession talks with the European Union, with the aim of becoming a member, with Brussels suggesting Iceland could be ‘fast-tracked’ into the Union and even into the Eurozone, to protect it from much of the financial damage caused by the crash.
However, the Alliance-led government ran into major roadblocks, with a series of failed referenda to pass a deal to pay back Icelandic bank debt, delays in trying to reform the country’s Constitution and rejected proposals to hold a referendum on continuing accession talks with the EU.
As a result, the Alliance lost over half of its support and fell to third in 2013, with only 12.9% and nine seats in the Althing – its worst ever performance since its creation. Its performance in next week’s election is expected to be even worse, with recent polls showing the Alliance on only 6.5%, only narrowly making it back into the Althing and a far cry from the almost 33% the party achieved only 13 years ago.
Since its inception in 1999, the party has been centred on social democracy and social justice. They support equal opportunities for all Icelanders and are also one of the main parties that supports Iceland’s eventual membership of the European Union.
- Restore Iceland’s health service to become one of the world’s best, by providing more resources for hospitals and healthcare centres
- Increased subsidies for dentistry for the elderly
- Free psychological help for young people
- Begin construction of the new hospital campus immediately
- Increase the number of rental apartments by 5,000, with 20% of these for students
- Assist people who lack sufficient funds for down payments on their first apartments
- Pledges not to exploit the potential of fossil fuels in Iceland’s jurisdiction
- Crack down on the amount of plastic used and thrown in landfill
- Create a green economy, with economic incentives for companies that use economically sustainable methods
Constitution and democracy
- Pick up where the party left off in 2013, to create genuinely representative government and equal votes for all voters
- Ensure new constitution focuses on women’s rights
- Lower the voting age to 16
- Ensure that natural resources are used in a way that is profitable but also sustainable
- Reform the tax system to ensure the wealthy pay their fair share
- Stop the funding drain in higher education with further investment to create job opportunities in the future
- Break up investment bank services from commercial banks and reform the banking system
- Hold a referendum on continuing accession negotiations with the European Union
- Adopt the Euro to ensure better-working conditions for Icelanders, allow for lower interest rates and allow for innovative companies to thrive
- Remain at the forefront of LGBT rights, and promote rights for LGBT people around the world
- Comprehensive legislation on disability rights that ensures continuity and equality of service for all
- Aim to scrap the blood ban for men who have sex with men
- Ensure that schools, sports clubs and other organisations meet the demands of intersex and trans citizens, with access to suitable toilet and changing facilities
- Create a legal third gender option through reform of the Constitution
- Prevent sexual violence in collaboration with schools, health services, police and the justice system
- Implement clear legislation on sexual violence that happens online
- Increase the number of women in Icelandic courts, and the number of specially trained police to deal with sexual violence
- Take affirmative action to increase the number of women in the police force
- Review the access to assistance for sexual violence among immigrant women and the disabled community
In the last profile of Icelandic parties and their manifestos tomorrow, we’ll look at ‘Bright Future’, who hope to gain enough seats in the Althing next week to become kingmakers for government…