Icelandic Language Blog

Parliamentary Elections in Iceland – who won? Posted by on Apr 30, 2013 in Icelandic culture, Icelandic customs

Icelanders fighting both on- and offline, faces of the politicians staring at you from all directions, our mayor Jón Gnarr dressed up as a Jedi knight – the Parliamentary Elections of Iceland just happened. By now you all know the end result as well: the right wing won, the same party that caused the economy to collapse in 2008 with their overtly relaxed attitude towards banks. Iceland seems dumbstruck by the result of these elections.

Personally, I’m staying optimistic. One misconception that I’ve read a lot about is that the right wing were somehow “not socialist” but this is not true – the whole country of Iceland is socialist, just like all the other Nordics. This means that Iceland is not going to suddenly throw away all the things that come with a left-side influence such as free/cheap health care and education, minimum wages and unemployment benefits that are survivable-on etc. Besides after making a rather embarrassingly large, world-famous mistake I’m ready to stake some money on that the right wing will be wanting to avoid similar mistakes in the future. And if they don’t, well, Icelanders have forced them out once before with the power of pots and pans and vats of skyr, they can no doubt do it again if needed.

What could have steered the vote this way is the question I hear all around me. Are people so quick to forget?


Back when the right wing was last in power Icelanders certainly felt good about life. Everyone had money and jobs, getting a loan was easy (oh boy how easy indeed!) and by every look of it the paradise was here, except of course that is not how economy works. There can exist no infinite growth but waves, and causing a wave as high as the bubble was inevitably ends up in a huge crash. Fixing that was a lot of work and suddenly no one was happy any longer. Sad as it is, no one ever likes the politicians who have to patch up the economy after it’s collapsed.

But is it really this simple? I don’t think it is. First of all, when a country is saving money the cuts hurt the ones that are the most helpless: the children, students, the ill, unemployed and the elderly. Yet when the economy is on an upward curve again no one somehow thinks of returning them what they lost. When counted together these groups have a rather large number of people in them and the ones old enough to vote may be easily swayed by the most recent treatment that they’ve been receiving.

This is not the only reason to vote for the right, of course. Some of the voters are simply loyal – I for example always vote for a certain party even if I actually prefer a politician that’s from another one. This is due to the voting system that yields the more seats the bigger the percentage of the votes is, so no matter how much I agreed with, say, a politician of the Central party I would never vote for them; chances are they won’t get selected and my vote only goes to give more seats to this a party whose ideas I’m against.

But besides these two – the loyal voters base and the forgetful nostalgists – there is still at least one huge issue that may have turned the tide for the right, and that’s the question about joining the EU. As the national votes proved a majority of Icelanders are not happy about joining. There are numerous reasons to this, tied to the fishing industry, farming, entrepreneurs and just the thought of losing independence that weigh in people’s minds. Do not overlook that last part, Icelanders get pretty fierce at the thought of becoming somebody else’s property again and many view EU to do just that. They fought long and hard for independence and now it looks like the government is considering handing it all away, just like that.

The truth of the matter is far more complicated than this but for most of the time the topic of joining the EU is simplified to this thought. Now let’s see how the parties view this:


Samfylkingin (= Social Democratic Alliance) (XS – this is a “code” for the whole party. I like to think of them as smileys.): strongly for joining the EU.

Vinstri-Græn (= Leftist-Greens)(XV): undecided, somewhat against joining the EU but I haven’t seen them being very vocal about it.

These are the two parties that were hitherto in power. Then for the others:


Sjálfsstæðisflokkurinn (= Independence Party)(XD): strongly against the EU.

Framsókn (= Progressives)(XB): I… have no idea! They aren’t very vocal about the EU but then again this is possibly one of the most misleading names for a party I’ve ever seen, since they rarely seem to actually do very much.

The above ones are the ones that are now with the most seats. Then there are the newcomer parties:


Píratapartýið (= Pirate Party)(XÞ): they’re more interested in internet freedom and have declared that it’s not the job of a political party to state their opinion on whether or not Iceland should join the EU.

Björt Framtið (= Bright Future)(XA): they’re for joining the EU.

Moon over the Pearl.

All this is but speculation of course, and since every election is a fight for the voters that are undecided the answer will likely differ a lot. The uncertain voters are the ones whole votes matter the most (the loyal ones will be loyal after all) and they’re a largely varied group, and therefore their motivations are impossible to point at, even those few ones’ who chose to take a photo of their ballot, upload it on Facebook and act all surprised when told it was illegal… I would be interested in hearing other people’s theories as well on this matter, if you’re knowledgeable on the subject of Icelandic politics!

Here’s some relevant vocabulary on the subject plus the names of all of the parties that are now in power. Trying to pronounce them correctly takes a bit of work. 🙂

Thank you all for April, see you in May!

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About the Author: hulda

Hi, I'm Hulda, originally Finnish but now living in the suburbs of Reykjavík. I'm here to help you in any way I can if you're considering learning Icelandic. Nice to meet you!