With the Icelandic election just days away, here is a closer look at the Social Democratic Alliance; a party that was once the largest left-leaning party in Iceland but has lost significant support over the last eight years.
The Social Democratic Alliance formed in the run up to the 1999 election, when four left-wing parties (the Social Democratic Party, the People’s Alliance, the Women’s List and National Awakening) merged in an attempt to unite the centre-left into an entity that could counter the large centre-right party, Independence. However, the merger was not welcomed by everyone – a number of MPs from the People’s Alliance rejected the centre-left platform (inspired by New Labour in the UK) and split, forming the Left-Green Movement.
The party achieved success soon after its formation, winning 26.8% and 17 seats in parliament – making them the second largest party. In 2007, the Alliance entered government for the first time, forming a grand coalition with Independence. However, that government would only last less than two years.
In October 2008, Iceland’s three commercial banks collapsed, leading to weekly protests outside parliament. After the Christmas recess, the Icelandic Prime Minister Geir Haarde resigned on health grounds and promised fresh elections. The ‘Pots and Pans Revolution‘, as it came to be known, resulted in the Social Democratic Alliance becoming the largest party in parliament – the first time another party had overtaken Independence in terms of seat numbers since 1942.
The party formed a coalition with the Left-Green Movement, with Alliance’s leader Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir becoming Prime Minister – the first woman to hold the position and the first lesbian head of government in the world. During her administration, Jóhanna introduced a ban on strip clubs, legalised same-sex marriage, began a process of reforming the Icelandic Constitution and held several referenda on the banking crisis – all of which failed to get public support. She did not seek re-election and retired from political life.
In the 2013 election, the Social Democratic Alliance lost more than half of their seats and support, to the benefit of the Progressive Party, and the then-new parties Bright Future and the Pirate Party. Their election downfall was exacerbated in last year’s elections, when they suffered their worst result to date, scraping into parliament with only 5.7%, winning three seats – down from the 20 they won in 2007.
The current chair of the party is Logi Már Einarsson and is the party’s sole constituency MP. Having been elected as deputy chairman prior to the last election, he was appointed to the leadership following the resignation of Oddný G. Harðardóttir, only a few months after being elected, as a result of their party’s performance in the 2016 election.
The Social Democratic Alliance is a social democratic party and is pro-European. They believe in equal access to housing, education and healthcare for all Icelanders and are strong believers in equal rights for women, disabled people and LGBTQ+ people.
Health and welfare
- Reduce patient fees until they no longer have to pay for services themselves
- Significantly expand psychiatric services and make them free of charge for young people
- Increase the number of nursing homes for the elderly
- Raise maternity/paternity leave payments to 600,000kr (£4,300) a month and extend leave to 12 months
- Introduce a new system of housing benefits, raising the threshold and better supporting families
- Increase the number of public rental apartments by 5,000 during the term of office, with an extra 1,000 apartments for students
Economy and taxation
- Alter income tax system to make higher earners pay more
- Make electricity companies pay a resource fee if production damages the environment
- Join the European Union and the eurozone
- Put the ‘Green Economy’ policy back on track, with environmentally-friendly public investment
- Eliminate poverty to improve quality of life for Icelanders
- Create an action plan on reducing greenhouse gas emissions with full and timed targets
- Place greater emphasis on Arctic affairs and support the rights of indigenous people
- Preserve the Middle Highlands by establishing a new National Park
- Reduce the use of plastic
- Allow all citizens the opportunity to access university education
- Reform the student loan system to write off debt upon completion of their studies
- Offer psychological services for free in secondary schools
- Increase purchasing power through the elimination of tariffs and other trade barriers
- Hold a referendum on continuing accession negotiations with the European Union, with the aim of joining the EU and the eurozone
- Support the accession of Palestine to multinational institutions, including the United Nations, and grant the Palestinian Authority an embassy in Iceland
- Ensure Iceland’s contribution to international aid meets 0.7% of GDP
- Recognise the self-determination of the residents of Western Sahara
- Get rid of the gender pay gap and establish gender quotas on corporate boards and pension funds
- Certify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
- Ensure schools, sports clubs and other social organisations provide for transgender and intersex people
- Revise the law on the status of transgender and intersex people with the aim of abolishing the view that it is a mental illness
- Support the rights of queer people on an international level and use all opportunities to criticise human rights violations against queer people
- Allow men who have sex with men to give blood
- Ensure that RUV, the national broadcaster, is independent, objective and responsible
- Establish a Media Fund for investigative journalism projects
- Improve the legal status of those working in media dealing with social affairs, in particular privacy laws
- Protect and value the independence of the judiciary
- Reduce the voting age to 16
- Create a new Constitution that guarantees the public ownership of resources and enshrines the separation of powers
Tomorrow, I’ll take a look at the parties that are not represented in the Icelandic parliament – including a new party formed by the former disgraced Prime Minister, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson.