With the Icelandic election just days away, here is a closer look at the Independence Party; the largest party in the Icelandic parliament and aiming to secure another term in office.
The Independence Party is a liberal conservative and centre-right party in Iceland and is one of the major parties in Icelandic politics. The party formed in 1929, resulting from a merger of the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party, advocating for Iceland to end its personal union with Denmark. Since Iceland became a republic in 1944, the Independence Party has been the largest party in the country’s parliament (the Althing) for every year except four – between 2009 and 2013, with the party serving in government for 55 of 73 years. As a result, Independence is the most successful right wing political party in Scandinavia.
The party receives a broad base of support, predominantly from the country’s fishing community, as well as the middle class, the wealthy and Icelandic businesses. In the election last year, Independence won 29% of the vote and claimed 21 seats in the Althing. After their former coalition partner, the Progressive Party, was discredited following the Panama Papers scandal, Independence formed a coalition with Bright Future and the newly-formed Reform Party after several months of talks.
The party’s leader and current Prime Minister is former lawyer Bjarni Benediktsson. He was elected as Independence’s leader just one month before the 2009 general election, where the party suffered its worst result in its history. Before becoming Prime Minister, Benediktsson served as Minister for Finance and Foreign Affairs from 2013-2017 under the Independence-Progressive coalition.
Benediktsson has attracted controversy during his life in the political sphere. In 2015, it was revealed that he had signed up to infamous extra-martial website Ashley Madison, after hackers leaked details of account holders. Benediktsson, who went under the username ‘IceHot1’, claimed that both he and his wife signed up to the website out of curiosity. His financial life has also come under scrutiny – most recently, he was accused of insider trading after it was revealed he had sold shares in an Icelandic bank fund just hours before the 2008 financial crash. Benediktsson has denied any wrongdoing.
The Independence Party is the sole majority right-leaning party in Iceland and is economically liberal and advocates for limited government intervention in the market. The party has, however, been much more liberal on social issues, such as LGBT rights. The party was also the only constant advocate for ending Iceland’s prohibition on beer, which only came to an end in 1989. Independence is Eurosceptic and believes that Iceland should not join the European Union; when they came back to power in 2013, they suspended negotiations on accession to the EU started by the previous left-wing administration.
- Increase availability of healthcare facilities and increase their services, especially mental health provision – with greater emphasis on preventing mental health conditions
- Increase the amount of nursing space, boost home health and shorten waiting lists
- Make it easier for young people to buy their first home through tax subsidies
- Introduce an active rental market in Iceland, like neighbouring countries
- Invest 100 billion krona (£716,500,000) to improving infrastructure through special dividend payments from banking sector in coming years
- Review monetary policy to ensure it supports long-term economic and financial stability
- Curb further public sector expansion by reducing government activity and prioritising basic services
- Increase innovation, productivity and economic growth in responsible and sustainable way
- Support employment through sustainable use of energy resources
- Lower level of income tax to 35%
- Reduce inheritance tax back to 5% from 10%, with the aim of eventually abolishing the tax altogether
- Make tax law clearer to prevent tax exception
Social and insurance affairs
- Ensure that payments from the maternity/paternity leave fund doesn’t fall under the average salary in the private sector
- Help increase the independence of people with disabilities both in terms of employment and transport
- Trade with Britain post-Brexit and seek a free trade agreement with the United States and elsewhere
- EU membership negotiations should not restart unless nation has direct ballot on joining
Environmental and natural resources
- Seek a broad consensus on utilisation of natural resources and make sure to protect nature and it is used in a sustainable manner
- Reduce greenhouse gases by planting more trees and cutting carbon emissions
- Constitution should be carefully considered with overall audit and review of all provisions
- Opposes radical changes to constitution, with any reforms being implemented in stages with utmost consultation and collaboration with other parties for greatest stability
Tomorrow, I’ll take a look at the party challenging Independence in the polls – the Left-Green Movement.