“Election Observation Activity” Unnecessary, New Report Finds

Alþingi Icelandic parliament

The deployment of special “election observation activity” during the upcoming Parliamentary elections is not necessary, according to a report by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. The authors of the report note that interviewees expressed “full confidence” in the integrity of the electoral process and in the election administration’s ability to organize professionally and transparently.

Invitation from the Permanent Mission

Following an invitation from the Permanent Mission of Iceland, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has published a Needs Assessment Mission (NAM), authored by the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), regarding the upcoming parliamentary elections on September 25. The OSCE has previously published reports on Icelandic elections in 2013 and 2017.

The purpose of this year’s mission was to assess the “pre-election environment and the preparations for the elections” to determine whether to deploy ODIHR election-related activity. The authors of the report met with representatives of state institutions, election administrators, political parties, media, and civil society.

A few election-related issues

Among the election-related issues raised by the report’s interlocutors were the modernisation of the Constitution and the equality of the vote.

As noted in the report, several interviewees noted “a longstanding public request for modernisation of the Icelandic Constitution,” explaining the prolongation of the constitutional reform process with reference to the lack of political support to proposed changes.

Another long-standing issue raised by “most of the ODIHR NAM interlocutors” related to the equality of vote. Icelandic law provides that the National Election Commission (NEC) is to reallocate seats according to the D’Hondt method, whereby 54 seats are allocated at the constituency level with no electoral threshold, while the remaining nine seats are distributed at the national level among parties that exceeded the 5% nationwide threshold.

The report notes: “These nine ‘adjustment seats’ are intended as a measure to ensure proportional representation of parties at the national level. Notwithstanding this provision, some ODIHR NAM interlocutors opined that proportional distribution of seats is not sufficiently respected to the detriment of smaller political parties.” This issue was raised in the OSCE’s previous two reports.

Finally, “isolated concerns” were also raised regarding the regulatory framework and conduct of campaign, media and its oversight, although these concerns were not identified by stakeholders as having a significant impacting the upcoming elections.

Conclusion

The report concludes with the declaration that all interlocutors expressed “full confidence in the integrity of the electoral process” and in the ability of the election administration to “organize elections professionally and transparently.” On this basis, the ODIHR NAM does not recommend special observational activity for the upcoming Parliamentary elections. The report does, however, reiterate that many of its previous election-related recommendations remain valid, while emphasising its readiness to support the authorities in ongoing electoral reform.

Armed Man Wounded by East Iceland Police Last Night

The police in East Iceland shot and wounded an armed man in Egilsstaðir last night, Mbl.is reports. No police officers were injured. The man has been transferred to the University Hospital in Reykjavík for treatment.

“Gunshots heard”

Shortly after 10 pm yesterday, the police in East Iceland was notified of an individual firing shots in Dalsel, a residential area in Egilsstaðir. In an interview with Mbl.is, Þröstur Jónsson, a resident of Dalsel, stated that he had heard “popping noises, as if from a skateboard,” from inside his garage. Stepping outside, Þröstur observed as police officers ordered the man to lay down his weapon. It is not clear at this point what kind of weapon the man was brandishing.

The gunman, approximately 30 years of age, was reportedly standing in the street, in front of a police vehicle, when the officers shot him in the stomach. The man was treated by emergency respondents and transferred to the University Hospital in Reykjavík in an ambulance flight. The man’ condition remains unknown, although multiple sources report that he is alive. No police officers were wounded.

No further information will be provided by the East Iceland police at this time.

Cannot comment at this stage of the investigation

In an interview with RÚV, Kolbrún Benediktsdóttir, Deputy District Attorney, revealed that the DA’s office had dispatched personnel to investigate the shooting. “The investigation is in its initial stages, so we can’t comment.”

When asked about the next steps of the investigation, Kolbrún remarked that the DA’s office would be conducting interviews over the coming days.

(This article was updated on 3 pm.)