Tuesday

10th Dec 2019

Political earthquake shakes up Iceland's local elections

A political earthquake has shaken Iceland, with a comedy political party winning local elections in a development that showcases citizens' increasing disregard for traditional politics.

Promising a polar bear for the Reykjavik zoo, free towels at all swimming pools, a Disneyland theme park at the airport and a drug-free parliament by 2020, the newly formed Besti Flokkurinn [Best Party] took the political establishment by surprise when it became the biggest party in Sunday's municipal elections in the Icelandic capital, Reykjavik, securing six out of 15 seats in the new city council.

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  • Best Party members in Reykjavik: The party was estblished just half a year ago by a group of comedians, actors and musicians (Photo: Besti Flokkurinn)

In the country, which has been brought close to bankruptcy as one of the worst hit by the financial crisis, the electorate showed its true feelings for the political parties in local votes on Sunday. Jon Gnarr, Iceland's best-known comedian, is now in a strong position to become mayor of Reykjavik.

And it is not only in Reykjavik that voters have turned their backs on the traditional political parties. Council majorities in the second largest city Kopavogur as well as in Hafnarfjordur fell during yesterday's local elections. In the northern city of Akureyri, the upstart L List of Akureyri Residents achieved a clear majority, winning 45% of the votes and six councillors.

Iceland's social democrat prime minister, Johanna Sigurdadottir, said the vote could spell the end of the traditional four-party system in Iceland.

The Best Party in Reykjavik was established just half a year ago by a core group of comedians, actors and musicians and was seen by many as a way to sidestep a broken political system.

The new party ran their campaign under the slogan 'Whatever Works' and suggested that it was time for a "clean out". A large part of the campaign was run via YouTube with the campaign video featuring candidates singing along to Tina Turner's "Simply The Best" with a modified chorus: 'Best for Reykjavik, Best city of every week.'

On Sunday, it broke all expectations by winning 34.7 percent of the votes. The traditionally leading Independence Party, a centre-right political grouping, had to content itself with second place on 33.6 percent and five seats. The Social Democratic Alliance, which currently governs Iceland in coalition with the hard-left Left-Green Movement, won three seats while its coalition partner secured only one seat. As many as five percent cast a blank vote in the elections.

"I have never seen anything like this", Olafur Hardarsson, professor in politics at the Reykjavik University told Iceland's public broadcaster, RUV.

"I believe we are to see this vote as a protest against the traditional politicians, against the political parties and against the political realities experienced", he added.

'We are the best' - Best Party video

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