Left victory in Icelandic elections

This is a video of a demonstration in Iceland against the previous conservative government.

From Associated Press:

Apr 25, 11:27 PM EDT

Early signs of win for Iceland’s left-wing parties

Associated Press Writer

REYKJAVIK — Iceland’s leftist government was headed Saturday for a strong victory in the country’s general election, a rejection of the pro-business Independence Party that ran the government last fall when the banking system failed, preliminary results show.

Early results showed that a left-wing coalition made up of the Social Democratic Alliance and the Left Green Movement has won 35 out of the 63 seats in parliament.

The two parties are part of a caretaker government that took office in February after public protests about Iceland’s economic collapse toppled the previous conservative administration. The left-wing coalition is led by interim Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir.

The results are an overwhelming rejection of the conservative Independence Party. For the first time in the party’s 70 years history it is not the largest party in the parliament.

Sigurdardottir was in an upbeat mood at the election party.

“The nation is settling the score with the neoliberalism, with the Independence Party, who have been in power for much too long,” she told supporters. “The people are calling for a change of ethics. That is why they have voted for us.” …

The Social Democratic Alliance has won 22 seats in parliament with 33 percent of the votes counted, while the Left Green Movement has 13 seats with 19.9 percent of votes, early results show. The Independence Party has 15 seats with 22.5 percent of votes.

The centrist Progressive Party has nine seats with 12.8 percent of votes and the Citizens Movement has four seats with 8.2 percent of the vote. Around 38 percent of all votes have been counted so far.

The global financial crisis washed up hard on the shores of this volcanic island of 320,000 people. After racking up massive debts during years of laissez-faire economic regulation and rapid expansion, the country’s three main banks collapsed within the space of a week in October.

The government sought a $10 billion International Monetary Fund-led bailout and the country’s currency, the krona, has plummeted.

Unemployment and inflation have spiraled and the IMF has predicted that the economy will shrink by about 10 percent in 2009, which would be Iceland’s biggest slump since it won full independence from Denmark in 1944.

Iceland’s election commission announced the early results Saturday night shortly after polls closed around the country.

Update, also from Associated Press:

REYKJAVIK, Iceland — Official results from Iceland’s general elections show the Social Democrats won the most votes.

The results released Sunday give the Social Democratic Party a plurality with more than 30 percent. The Left-Green Movement received more than 21 percent of the ballot.

The two parties say they will form a coalition government.

The official results are based on 97.9 percent of the votes cast in Saturday’s elections, with five constituencies still counting ballots.

See also here. And here. And here.

Iceland’s art scene faces an uncertain future: here.

Sexuality In The Late Middle Ages in Iceland: here.

1 thought on “Left victory in Icelandic elections

  1. Tourists, hunters in quest for Iceland’s whales

    By Delphine Touitou, AFP

    April 28, 2009

    A Minke whale swims near a whale-watching boat off Reykjavik, Iceland. Whaling presents a paradox for Iceland: it’s a precious resource both for the tourism industry, which wants to protect the animals, and whalers who want to hunt them in what they say is a traditional and cultural right.
    Photograph by: Olivier Morin, AFP

    REYKJAVIK – Tourists bundled up in heavy parkas board a whale-watching boat docked in Reykjavik’s port, excited at the thought of glimpsing the mighty animal. Across the harbour, whalers prepare their ships for the hunting season.

    “It’s quite strange to have these two boats in front of each other,” says Angela Walk, a 37-year-old tourist guide for one of nine Icelandic companies that offers whale-spotting tours off the coast of this island in the middle of the North Atlantic.

    Walk, a native of Germany who settled in Iceland 12 years ago, says her company “is against whaling.”

    “We try to convince them to stop. It’s not good for Iceland’s image.”

    But whaling presents a paradox for the country: it’s a precious resource both for the tourism industry, which wants to protect the animals, and whalers who want to hunt them in what they say is a traditional and cultural right.

    Every day during summer’s peak season, thousands of tourists spend 45 euros (60 dollars) each in the hopes of sighting a minke whale, or, if they’re lucky, the more imposing fin whale.

    “On a 60-tonne fin whale, 50 percent is blubber and 50 percent is meat,” explains Olafur Olafsson, a 59-year-old fisherman and whaler who has worked at sea since the age of 14.

    This burly redhead is the captain of the boat named “H”, for “Hvalur” or whale in Icelandic which is also the name of the company. It is the only whaling company in Iceland licensed to hunt fin whales.

    Olafsson says that after spending two decades docked in port due to Iceland’s suspension of whaling, his 51-meter (167-foot) ship will soon be ready to set sail with its 15 crew on June 2 — a day after the hunt officially begins on Monday, June 1.

    “Mondays are unlucky,” he says, citing local superstition.

    Three years ago when Iceland, a country of 320,000 people, announced it was resuming commercial whaling it set a quota of nine fin whales and 40 minke whales.

    In January of this year, the government sharply increased the quota to 150 fin whales and up to 150 minkes per year for the next five years, a move that sparked an international outcry.

    Fisheries Minister Steingrimur Sigfusson, whose left-wing government inherited the quotas when it came to power in February, said Iceland was reconsidering the levels and may revise the numbers later this year.

    He told AFP whaling was a “complex” issue, but “the majority of Icelanders see it as a natural thing … We are a nation of farmers and fishermen.”

    The pro-whaling camp says the quotas are needed to maintain the balance of the ocean’s ecosystem, and to protect fish stocks, since a whale devours several tonnes of fish a day.

    Olafsson insists that the whaling industry is strictly regulated: “We don’t hunt whales smaller than 20 meters (65 feet), nor mothers with calves.”

    And in 99 percent of cases, the whale is killed immediately, on the first try, with a harpoon that fires off two explosive charges within a fraction of a second.

    “We don’t want to hurt the animal because we want the meat to be healthy,” Olafsson said.

    Meanwhile, on board the whale-watching boat, captain Roland Buchholz steers with one hand, his other hand clutching binoculars that slowly scan the horizon.

    “I’m looking at birds. It’s the only way to know where food is, and probably whales.”

    Suddenly, a minke whale surfaces, breaking the water for a fleeting moment, to the delight of tourists — who have mixed reactions to the whale hunt.

    “We are very much against whaling. There’s no scientific reason to justify it. It’s simply for making money,” says 50-year-old Martin Holway of Britain, who travelled to Iceland with his wife for a whale-watching tour.

    Steve Feye, a 54-year-old from Boston, was meanwhile more understanding.

    “It’s cultural and a question of tradition.”

    “The whale show, with the whales coming up and down, is beautiful. But I can understand that whaling is also important for Icelandic people, especially during the economic crisis,” he said.

    The head of Iceland’s conservative Independence Party, Bjarni Benediktsson, said whaling easily becomes an “emotional issue.”

    “It’s a question of sovereignty to do whatever we want with our resources,” he told AFP.

    “We are following the rules of the game … in concert with experts and scientists who set the quotas,” he said.

    And, he asks, why can’t tourism and whaling co-exist?

    According to Angela Walk, a large majority of Iceland’s whale meat is eaten by tourists, “out of curiosity”.

    Iceland and Norway are the only two countries in the world that authorise commercial whaling. Japan officially hunts whales for scientific purposes, which are contested by opponents, and the whale meat is sold for consumption.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.